UNITED NATIONS (CNS) — In remarks Oct. 18 to a U.N. General Assembly committee focusing on the promotion and protection of children’s rights, the Vatican’s nuncio to the U.N. said, “Without life, all other rights are meaningless.”

Archbishop Francis Chullikatt was commenting on a U.N. report on child mortality, which concluded that the U.N.’s goal of ending all preventable child deaths is now within reach.

“It is cause for encouragement,” Archbishop Chullikatt said.

The U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child gives children the right to both pre- and postnatal health care. “This provision has meaning only if the unborn baby is first afforded the right to life and survival,” Archbishop Chullikatt said.

“It follows that each child must be accorded in the first place the right to be born. This is a right, moreover, which must be protected equally — without discrimination on any grounds, including those of sex or disability or policies dictated by eugenics,” he added.

“Prenatal diagnosis undertaken for the purpose of deciding whether or not the baby will be permitted to be born is inconsistent with the (U.N.) convention, which my (Vatican) delegation regards as the fundamental normative instrument on the rights of the child. The unborn baby is a member of our human family and does not belong to a ‘subcategory of human beings.'”

The Vatican has permanent observer status at the U.N.

“Prevention is a key aspect for the protection of children from sale and sexual exploitation,” Archbishop Chullikatt said in response to a recent U.N. report on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography which said in part, “The family represents the first layer of a protective environment” against such exploitation.

“Parents, in the first instance, have the responsibility to secure the conditions of living, necessary for the child’s life, survival and development,” the archbishop added.

“The rights of children begins with full respect for children themselves at all stages in their development, from conception onward,” Archbishop Chullikatt said. “Defense of the rights of the child requires, as its necessary corollary, defense of the family, for which the societal benefits are obvious: It is the family, not the state, that houses our children, feeds them, instructs them, and raises the next generation of society.”

Archbishop Chullikatt noted the preamble of the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights gives parents “prior right” before “the state or other actors” in the education of their children, which he said included “the important arena of religious liberty which includes human sexuality, marriage and the statute of the family.”

The Convention on the Rights of the Child similarly endows parents with the “primary responsibility” for their children’s education.

“Parents are entirely entitled to choose schools ‘other than those established by the public authorities — inclusive of home schooling — which conform to such minimum educational standards as may be laid down or approved by the state and to ensure the religious and moral education of their child in conformity with their own convictions,” Archbishop Chullikatt said.