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5 November 2007 - statement at workshop on child abduction and trafficking

Your Excellency, ladies and gentlemen,

This workshop is being held to address the recent events in Chad, where a number of children were assembled by Arche de Zoe with the intention of moving them to France.

I want first to set out the UNICEF position on this particular incident very clearly stated  by the UNICEF Executive Director, Ms. Ann Veneman, during her visit to Sudan.

It is unacceptable to see children taken out of their home countries without compliance with national and international laws

She said, what happened at Abeche goes against international norms, practices and laws. If children are to be adopted, they should be adopted in accordance with the Hague Convention.   It is unacceptable to see children taken out of their home countries without compliance with national and international laws.

The issue is now in the hands of the Chadian authorities, and due process should be followed, leading to any necessary actions.

In that respect, several speakers have implied that other NGOs have been involved and focused specifically on French NGOs.  That is not correct and the actions of Arche de Zoe should not imply that other NGOs or organizations are involved.

In the meantime, UNICEF is working with authorities and other agencies to provide immediate care and protection to those children including of nutritional supplements, non-food items and recreational activities. In particular, we are assisting in efforts to identify who these children are, and their places of origin, so that reunification with their relatives can take place.

On the broader issue of movement of children to third countries of children from conflict areas or other emergencies, I would like again to underline UNICEF’s position.

The best possible care for a child is with its family or extended family unit, where the child can remain within the cultural and social environment of its roots.

If this is simply not possible, then the option of fostering or adoption in the child’s own country could be considered, within the legal and cultural framework that exists.

Next, international adoption can be contemplated in line with and national laws on such adoptions.

Even in situations of conflict, if both parents are dead, there are often ways to provide a protective environment for children within the extended family, with grandparents, with uncles and aunts.



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