Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2) we continue our study on the protection of children and youth in developing countries. We'll get started.
I just want to introduce our guests from the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development. We have Julie Shouldice, who is the director of education, child protection and gender equality. Welcome. We're glad to have you here today again.
Of course, I think we all know Leslie Norton, who has been here once or twice over the last little while.
A voice: She's an honorary member of the committee.
The Chair: We're going to have a motion on that to see if we can get her in there.
Ms. Norton is the director general of international humanitarian assistance. Welcome, Ms. Norton. We're glad to have you here.
Delivering the remarks today we have Diane Jacovella, who is assistant deputy minister for global issues and development. It's great to have you here.
Last but not least, joining us is Rachael Bedlington, who is director human rights and indigenous affairs policy division.
Joining us via video conference from New York we have our ambassador, Guillermo Rishchynski, who is permanent representative of Canada to the United Nations. Welcome, Ambassador. I don't believe you have an opening statement, but you're certainly here to answer any questions we may have, so we're really glad to have you.
I'm sorry we were delayed by votes, which happen from time to time. I'm going to get started right away.
We'll turn it over to you, Ms. Jacovella, and we'll have your opening statement and then we'll go round the room with questions.
I will start my presentation in French and then move to English.
Thank you for the invitation to speak to you today about the protection of children in developing countries.
Children are the future and our most precious resource. Yet the statistics on violence against children are alarming. Anywhere between 500 million and 1.5 billion children worldwide endure some form of violence, exploitation or abuse.
You've already heard from many of our partners about the importance of protecting children and youth in developing countries. I am pleased to be here today to provide you with an update on the recent activities of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, or DFATD, in relation to this important issue.
Child protection is one area where Canada's development and foreign policy priorities are mutually reinforcing. I'm speaking today on behalf of the entire department, with support from my colleagues who are here and who can also answer your questions, including our ambassador to the United Nations.
Twenty-five years ago, Canada played an instrumental role in negotiating the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Canada has continued to champion children's rights and child protection ever since.
Securing the future of children and youth is one of five thematic priorities of Canada's international assistance. It sets out three paths for engagement that aim to support children from birth till adulthood: maternal, newborn and child health; access to quality education, especially for girls; and safe and secure futures.
Improving maternal, newborn and child health remains Canada's top development priority. Paramount to securing a safe future for children is protecting their health in the first 1,000 days.
In 2010, Canada led the G8 in launching the Muskoka Initiative on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, which leveraged $7.3 billion in new funding from the G8.
Last May, Prime Minister Harper brought together eminent global health leaders, including the UN Secretary-General, who were unanimous in their support for accelerating global action on women's and children's health. At the summit, the Prime Minister announced a $3.5-billion commitment to maternal, newborn and child health from 2015-20.
Canada's leadership has delivered unprecedented results through investments in life-saving efforts to improve the health of mothers and children, in collaboration with our partners.
Canadian partners achieving critical results with support from DFATD include the Micronutrient Initiative, Canada's key nutrition partner. The Micronutrient Initiative ensures that an average of more than 300 million people per year are reached with iodized salt. Iodine is a critical micronutrient for optimal brain development.
Protecting children also means protecting them from leading diseases. Canada's investments have leveraged key partnerships such as with GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, which mobilized $7.5 billion to vaccinate 300 million children and save up to 6 million lives over the next 5 years. It is these kinds of results that are affirming Canada's position as a leader in maternal, newborn and child health.
Canada has aIso partnered with Rotarians, who have given generously to the global effort to eradicate polio through the global polio eradication initiative. This is the single largest, internationally coordinated public health initiative, which has successfully reduced new polio cases by 99%.
As well, UNICEF Canada and the Kiwanis Foundation of Canada will raise funds to be matched by DFATD so that 3.4 million women of reproductive age receive three doses of the tetanus toxoid vaccine to prevent tetanus infection for themselves and their future newborns.
Canada has also extended our commitment to accountability in women's and children's health to global fora. At the invitation of the Secretary-General, Prime Minister Harper has co-led a global initiative to improve accountability for women's and children's health, which has vastly improved the global community's ability to track resources invested and results achieved. Through Canada's leadership and investments in maternal, newborn, and child health, girls and boys are living safer and healthier lives. At the same time, our investments in education and child protection aim to ensure that children not only survive but also thrive.
Education is a key driver for reducing poverty, fostering economic growth, and promoting human development, yet an estimated 57 million girls and boys are not in primary school, about 50% of whom are in conflict-affected and fragile states. Canada has a long-standing commitment to increasing access to quality basic education as the foundation for lifelong learning, employment, and sustainable development.
Getting and keeping girls in school is particularly important. When girls are educated they tend to marry later, have fewer children, provide better health care and nutrition for their families, and earn more income than women with little or no education. Our work in Afghanistan over the past decade has, for example, contributed to the creation of more than 7,200 community-based schools that have provided education to approximately 210,000 students, over 80% of whom are girls.
Canada also works to support safe and secure schools so that every boy and girl can learn and develop without fear of violence, exploitation, or abuse. With Canadian support, Plan International Canada is working in Kenya with the government and directly with children to improve access to safe and high-quality learning environments. We believe that when adults fight, children's education should not suffer. To that end, Canada has announced $58 million for the No Lost Generation initiative through UNICEF and its partners. This effort supports Syrian and Iraqi children with the protective environment and learning opportunities they need.
As part of our child protection programming, DFATD supports countries to develop child protection systems that provide for the safety and security of every girl and boy. For example, Canada is proud to support the Together for Girls initiative, which is dedicated to ending violence against children, with a focus on sexual violence against girls. Canada also recently announced support to the special representative of the UN Secretary-General on violence against children. Her work mobilizes political support to maintain momentum around the violence against children agenda. The need to protect children is increased in fragile and conflict-affected states. ln 2013 Canada provided support to implement the minimum standards for child protection in humanitarian action, which aims to improve the quality, predictability, and accountability of child protection responses in humanitarian situations.
Investments in birth registration also advance child protection. By registering every birth, we can strengthen child protection practices at all levels. When children are registered, it entitles them to services like health and education, and allows them to be traced if they become separated from their families, displaced, or trafficked.
Through our funding investment in the global financing facility, significant additional resources and partnerships will be leveraged to help improve maternal, newborn, and child health, and to strengthen civil registration and vital statistics. This will support countries to have the necessary information to develop strategic and effective policies and programs in child health and to enable children to have a better chance to access their rights and health services.
Canada continues to demonstrate strong leadership in working to end the practice of child, early, and forced marriage, or CEFM. This practice violates girls' human rights, disrupts their education, jeopardizes their health, and makes them more vulnerable to violence. ln the last few years, Canada has spearheaded the creation of the International Day of the Girl Child, which was focused on CEFM in its first year. We also championed the first-ever stand-alone resolutions to eliminate child, early, and forced marriage at the UN General Assembly and in the UN Human Rights Council. Building on this success, in the fall of 2014 Canada and Zambia led the most substantive international resolution to date on child, early, and forced marriage. We are proud that the resolution was adopted unanimously by the General Assembly.
We have also intensified programming towards CEFM. Canada is working with such key partners as UNICEF, Care Canada, Save the Children, Plan, and Girls Not Brides to bolster efforts to prevent CEFM and support girls who have already been married. Canada also plays a leadership role on other foreign policy efforts fundamental to child protection. This includes advancing Security Council resolutions on the protection of children in situations of armed conflict and as chair of the Group of Friends on Children and Armed Conflict. Canada is working to ensure that the rights of children are central to the sustainable development goals and targets of the new global post-2015 development agenda.
Canada is advocating for child protection to be addressed through the inclusion of measurable goals and targets related to improving maternal, newborn, and child health; eliminating all forms of violence against women and children; empowering women and girls; and eliminating child, early, and forced marriage.
The Government of Canada has also enhanced its capacity to protect Canadian children overseas. This has been done through the creation of a specialized vulnerable children consular unit responsible for cross-border issues that affect Canadian families, such as international parental abduction, forced marriage, and child welfare.
DFATD continues to engage regularly with Canadian civil society and with international organizations, many of which have already appeared before this committee. We are aIso exploring new ways to engage the private sector. For example, in February 2014, Canada welcomed the children's rights and business principles, which provide a tool to guide businesses on actions they can take to respect and support children's rights in the workplace, marketplace, and community.
ln addition, many other federal government departments lead complementary efforts to end violence against children, specifically on issues such as children's rights, human trafficking, child labour, child exploitation, and online sexual abuse, and on women, peace and security.
Making the world safe and secure for girls and boys is something that all countries can achieve together through commitment, compassion, and collaboration. By demonstrating global leadership at home and abroad, Canada is helping to bring about stronger international standards, support, and enforcement that puts children first. Child protection is a fundamental element of achieving global stability, security, and prosperity.
It is really appalling when we look at the statistics. We know that, globally, there are about 700 million women alive today who were married as children. According to the UNICEF report, “The State of the World’s Children”, there are 50 million girls who are married each year, and one in three girls is married before the age of 18.
I think, what we found really compelling is the link between child, early, and forced marriage, and maternal, newborn, and child health. When we look at the complications that occur during pregnancy, we find that the complications for pregnancy and childbirth are a leading cause of death for girls in the developing world, and many of them are married young. Stillbirths and newborn deaths are also much more prevalent among young girls.
We know that if we keep girls in school, we will delay marriage, delay the first pregnancy, and also delay death during childbirth. These are significant things that can be done.
In terms of programming, Canada has worked a lot over the past couple of years to attract attention to this issue, both through the multilateral system and through UN resolutions. Recently, in the fall of 2014, the first substantive resolution was adopted by the UN General Assembly, and as I mentioned, it was unanimous. This is something that Canada co-led with Zambia, and we're really proud of that collaboration with Zambia.
What we have found is that, in addition to the multilateral advances to bring attention to the issue, we also need to have targeted programming, so we have started having targeted programming over the last couple of years. What we try to do is prevent the practice of child, early, and forced marriage, but we also help girls who are already married, and make sure to provide them with the support they need.
We work with countries to develop the legislation that is needed. But we know that you can have legislation in place and the practice will still continue, so we also work with communities by empowering them to make the change. It's a complex issue. It's one that involves both our human rights and development approaches, but it is one that is definitely worth continuing to work on.
If any of you have had the privilege of hearing one of those young girls talk about this, it's heartbreaking. In terms of Canadian values, we feel we really need to continue our efforts and redouble what we're doing.
In response to the latter part of your question, Mr. Dewar, I think that there's reticence in many quarters amongst member states to take on commitments for which they know that their capacity and financial wherewithal to be able to deliver what's being asked is just not there. If you're representing a country that has very limited instances to be able to invest in basic services.... Many countries, some 40% of the world, don't even have water and sanitation.
When we start looking at specific initiatives around child protection, it's not that there's a reticence personally or emotionally to not want to stand up, the problem is if we do that what do we have to stop doing because we don't have the resources?
The key discussion right now around the post-2015 development agenda is a recognition that domestic resource mobilization, people paying their taxes, is going to have to be a critical element in giving countries the ability to invest their own funds in addition to what might come from official development assistance, from private investment, and from philanthropic organizations. The scale of the needs that exist in a world with seven billion people that will grow to nine billion by 2040 simply outstrips what we as donors can provide. We're now a drop in the ocean, we're 15% of the total financial need that's out there.
While people are motivated by a desire to do what is right and what is best for their populations they are constrained by the financial realities and the enormity of the challenges that they face. And because everything is required, particularly if you're coming out from a conflict situation, which so much of the world is, they don't know where to start.
The UN, to its credit, has really raised its game from the point of view of working with them to prioritize the areas of immediacy. They can in essence divide the labour with partners and then be able to build incrementally over time, but more importantly track the progress and move resources around to meet critical gaps that may arise. It's not a perfect system but I think we're much better today than we were before the adoption of the millennium development goals in being able to do that.
Why are children so wound up in conflict as victims? It's simply because they are the most vulnerable. In every conflict situation it is women and children who suffer the most. They do so because they do not have the same inherent abilities, if you will, in terms of where they can go for refuge, and in conflict situations they are reduced almost to an act of survival.
For children it becomes something even more grotesque, if one can use that term, because if they lose a parent and are utterly disconnected then from any kind of sociological system that they're connected with, then they become that much more susceptible to abuse and victimization from those who hold power. Why does a child pick up a gun? It's because that gun gives that child the feeling that they are empowered at some level to be able to deal with the realities of violence that may exist in their society.
These are intractable problems. We're doing better at being able to address them but there are days when you wonder whether we are doing enough from the point of view of the growth of this phenomenon, as so much of the world becomes consumed by conflict.