RECORD NUMBER OF CHILDREN TO BE DELEGATES AT
NEW YORK, 20 August –- More than 100 children will serve as delegates at next month's landmark United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Children, the first time such large numbers of young people will actively participate in deliberations at a major United Nations conference, officials announced today.
"It may seem like common sense to invite young people to a conference completely dedicated to their well-being. But this is a radical change for such high-level meetings," said Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the secretariat for the Special Session. "Children will literally be rubbing shoulders with presidents and prime ministers. They will have a chance to voice their concerns and influence the debate."
The children's attendance, along with the expected participation of more than 1,000 representatives from child-focused non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from around the world, promises to broaden the 19-21 September meeting at United Nations Headquarters far beyond the traditional core of official government representatives.
To date, 113 individuals under the age of 18 have registered to take part in the Special Session, 34 of them as members of government delegations and 79 as members of NGO delegations. Many more are expected to sign up in the coming weeks, forming an intriguing and youthful counterpoint to the more than 76 heads of State or Government that have so far committed to attending. Several child delegates have already been selected by governments to formally address the General Assembly during the Special Session, a truly historic breakthrough.
"Eleven years ago [at the 1990 World Summit for Children], children were given token treatment. But this summer in New York, we got to talk directly to top government representatives," said Vadim-Alexandru Pungulescu, a 17-year old from Romania, referring to a Special Session preparatory meeting in June where he was one of 140 youth delegates. "I still think children are not the priority they should be. In 10 years, time, I won't be a child anymore, but I hope the world will be a better place in which adults will take decisions with children instead of for them."
The Special Session will be the first time the United Nations General Assembly has met to specifically address issues relating to children. It will explore the long-standing obstacles to children's well-being as well as newly emerging challenges. A key part of this process is a review of progress made since the 1990 World Summit for Children, where governments committed to specific and time-bound goals on child survival, protection and development.
"I hope we can arrive at one proposition and that all governments will value the rights of children," said Griselda Lupita Garcia, 14, from Santa Ana, El Salvador, who also attended the June preparatory meeting. "My ideal world is a just and fair place for children, where our rights are respected and where we can participate in everything."
Breaking New Ground with NGOs
In addition to the record number of young delegates, a large contingent of representatives from non-governmental organizations, expected to exceed 1,000, will provide governments with a grassroots view of the needs of the world’s children. In another departure for a General Assembly special session, NGOs without prior United Nations affiliation have been accredited. This is an attempt to bring community groups –- who often work the closest with children -– into the decision-making process.
Of the 3,727 NGOs who were invited by Special Session organizers, 1,678 did not previously have an official United Nations affiliation. But UNICEF was given permission to invite hundreds of organizations that it partners with for children in countries around the world, including faith-based organizations, child advocacy groups, and non-profit organizations that specialize in development. The lists of invited NGOs are available at www.un.org and at www.unicef.org.
Hundreds of NGOs have already contributed to the Special Session's two main documents. The first, Secretary-General Kofi Annan's "We the Children: End Decade review of the follow-up to the World Summit for Children," was released in May. It can be found at:
The second, "A World Fit For Children," is the draft outcome document that will be considered by government delegates during the Special Session. It delineates the new commitments and goals for children that countries must adhere to over the next several years.
Attendance: As of 15 August, more than 76 heads of State have confirmed their attendance at the Special Session, and the number is expected to rise.
Process: Over the past 18 months, a series of regional consultations by governments and NGOs has produced concrete regional commitments that will inform the Special Session and serve as regional roadmaps for improving children's lives. These can be viewed online at http://www.unicef.org/specialsession.
Tens of thousands of individuals from around the world, including children and young people, have taken part in this process.
Statistics: The Secretary-General’s end-decade report, "We The Children," is available online at http://www.unicef.org/specialsession/press/.
Media Accreditation: Accreditation for the Special Session is handled by the United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI). For detailed instructions visit www.unicef.org/specialsession/press/credentials.htm
UNICEF: UNICEF has been appointed by the General Assembly to act as the Secretariat for the Special Session. The UNICEF Media team, with headquarters in New York and Geneva, as well as field offices and national committees in 160 countries, can assist news organizations in story development, accessing facts & figures, arranging interviews, and acquiring video b-roll. The UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy will be in New York and available for media interviews beginning September 4. She is currently travelling in Africa and the Far East.
Say Yes for Children: UNICEF is one of several children’s organizations urging people all over the world to support action for children through the Say Yes for Children campaign. By logging on to www.gmfc.org, people can vote for the three most important actions that leaders must take for children. The results will be presented at the Special Session.
What’s Ahead: Over the next five weeks, the Special Session media team will issue weekly press updates. This is the third such update. A key event will be the September 13 launch of The State of The World’s Children, 2002, UNICEF’s annual summary of children’s welfare.
For further information, please contact:
Patsy Robertson, Special Session Media, New York (212) 326-7270
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