UNITED NATIONS   -   Pakistan has called on the international community to focus attention on the suffering of children living in Indian-occupied Kashmir and other areas of conflict and occupation, saying their wounds long outlive the wars themselves.

"From Syria to Palestine and Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, children continue to be caught in a vortex of violence, neither of their choosing nor of their making," Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi told the General Assembly Third Committee, which deals with social, humanitarian and cultural issues.

"They are victims of unimaginable horror every day," she said in a debate on the Rights of Child.

In this context, the Pakistani envoy also referred to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' report which said "children suffer disproportionately from violations of their rights from vulnerable populations affected by war, economic upheaval, public health emergencies and climate change."

Indeed, Ambassador Lodhi said, conflicts violated every conceivable right of a child. "Targeted attacks, sexual violence, forced conscription and indiscriminate killing of children paint an extremely bleak picture of the human cost of modern conflict," she added.

"Today," the Pakistani envoy said, "children living in areas impacted by conflict and foreign occupation are at risk more than at any time in history."

"We must focus our attention to all these far-reaching consequences for all children, in all situations," she stressed.

In her remarks, Ambassador Lodhi regretted that the better future promised for children three decades remained a distant dream. "Growing inequalities continue to deprive the poorest and the most excluded children of essential services, with protracted conflicts, foreign occupation and cyclical spikes in violence the principal causes," she said.

Highlighting the priority given by Pakistan to protecting and promoting the rights of children, Ambassador Lodhi said that investing in children was considered a key to development and prosperity by her country, as evidenced by the fact that Pakistan was one of the earliest signatories of the Convention on Rights of the Child and its optional protocols. Pakistan had also ratified all core ILO conventions on child labour.

She also described the recent policy measures taken in Pakistan to promote the rights of children and said that new legislation was adopted to protect children from abuse, maltreatment, exploitation, neglect and mental violence.

The Pakistani envoy also drew attention to the work of the National Commission for Child Welfare and Development, which she said, was working closely with UNICEF to assess and promote child rights across the country.

Earlier, United Nations experts told the Committee that Children on the move must be better protected from detention, family separation and violence, in one of many calls for governments to safeguard the rights of boys and girls around the world.

Secretary General's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Virginia Gamba said that in the past year, numerous children have been recruited or abducted across borders and used to fight or serve in roles outside their countries of origin. Boys and girls also travelled with their families or caregivers into war zones and, upon arrival, were often separated and drawn into the conflict.

She expressed particular concern for children deprived of liberty, including those of foreign nationality, for their alleged association with armed forces or groups, stressing that their primary status as victims must be respected. Alternatives to detention should be prioritised to avert further stigmatisation. Placing children at risk of statelessness contravenes central tenants of international law, she cautioned.

Along similar lines, Director of Programmes for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Ted Chaiban said it is of great concern that many countries still detain children, sometimes systematically, on the basis of their legal status or that of their parents.

While some have created policy and legal prohibitions for child and family immigration detention, those measures must be fully implemented, in line with the evolving normative framework.

He recalled that the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, to be adopted in December 2018 in Marrakech, fully commits to protecting the rights of millions of children who have migrated across borders or been forcibly displaced.

Marta Santos Pais, the Special Representative on Violence against Children spotlighted landmark achievements: the number of national plans to prevent and address violence has doubled; more than 50 countries have a comprehensive legal ban on all forms of violence; and data systems have been consolidated.

And yet, she said, every five minutes, a child dies as a result of violence. Every year, one billion children — half the world's boys and girls — are disciplined through violence, sexually abused or bullied.

Online abuse is a growing risk. Children wish for a world as big as their dreams, where neglect and exploitation have no place.

She urged that no efforts be spared to make these aspirations a reality.