Delegate: Victoria Uwonkunda
Ms. Uwonkunda (Norway): Please allow me to start my statement by bringing a message from a girl who was not given the opportunity to be here, but who has an important message.
“I still get bad dreams and wake up screaming. Even when I am not asleep, I get bad dreams. I hear rebels threatening to kill me. I see a long line of frightened children tied with ropes and hear rebels ordering to kill them. At night, I do not want to see flashes of torches. They remind me of the night I was abducted.”
Those are the words of 13-year-old Pamela from northern Uganda, and that is the reality of thousands of children.
I was the same age as 13-year-old Pamela when I myself faced the greatest tragedy of my life as a young refugee from Rwanda. But despite our sharing the same destiny, her tragedy is far greater than mine.
As a young refugee of 13 due to war in Rwanda, I was forced to grow up unbelievably fast. I did not have a choice, and neither did any of the others with whom I spent the first three nights in a roundabout in Goma in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
It was not until December 1997 that I could finally sit and relax, that I could finally sleep and wake up without nightmares. For the first time in a long time, I saw my parents at ease, with no worry for our security or about how to put food on the table. Not everyone got the same chance my family did.
Norway fully supports the World Youth Report’s demand for special attention to integrating youth who are victims of armed conflicts. But it is important that the need for special attention be recognized in the countries of origin as well as in the countries of asylum. The World Youth Report describes the relationship between a refugee’s situation and the probability of poverty, drug abuse, trafficking, violence, dropping out of school and exposure to physical suffering and psychological damage.
Children and youth who flee and seek asylum in safe countries have special needs. The Convention on the Rights of the Child states that children who seek asylum must receive appropriate protection and humanitarian assistance. When unaccompanied minors arrive in host countries, they are often treated the same way as adults. But they need special treatment, adapted information and the appointment of a guardian to be responsible for providing help and assistance.
Receiving young refugees is not just a burden. Refugee children have ideas, experiences, knowledge and an abundance of resources. The asylum State must succeed in integrating young refugees to be able to take advantage of the resources of those children and young people. We simply cannot afford to lose them or see them drop out. In fact, if States fail to integrate asylum-seekers and refugees, they risk creating a new lower class. Young people and youth non-governmental organizations should be seen as tools and partners in integration processes.
We urge the States that have not done so to ratify and comply with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. We urge all States to incorporate the Convention on the Rights of the Child into national law and to comply with its obligations. We urge all States to see young refugees as valuable resources and to develop integration programmes for young refugees. We urge [*24*] the United Nations to focus on the situation of young refugees and internally displaced persons in the next World Youth Report on youth at risk.
My own story ended very well, but Pamela did not get the second chance I got. For her and millions of other children and young people, we have to work together to find a solution. That requires time and resources that I know we possess. Let us make it a priority.
UN Doc.: A/60/PV.27