9 May 2002
World Leaders Urged to Heed Voices of Young People, As General Assembly Begins Three-Day Special Session on Children
Children Not Sources of Problems, But Resources to Solve Them, Youth Representative Tells Assembly
NEW YORK, 8 May (UN Headquarters) -- As the General Assembly this morning began its landmark meeting devoted to children, world leaders were urged to heed the voices of young people and to include them as partners in creating "A World Fit for Children".
The three-day special session -- devoted to an end-of-decade review of the follow-up to the 1992 World Summit for Children -- aimed to bring together government leaders, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), children's advocates and children themselves to explore long-standing obstacles to young people's well-being and development, as well as new challenges to the promotion and protection of their rights.
The session features the participation of an unprecedented number of young people, two of whom addressed delegates today in what was a first for the Assembly. "We are children whose voices are not being heard: it is time we are taken into account. We want a world fit for children, because a world fit for us is a world fit for everyone", stated Gabriela Azurduy Arrieta.
Audrey Chenynut added, "We are not the sources of problems; we are the resources that are needed to solve them. We are not expenses; we are investments. We are not just young people; we are people and citizens of this world… You call us the future, but we are also the present".
Secretary-General Kofi Annan stressed that children attending the session and their peers in every land had a right to expect the translation of words into action and the building of a world fit for children. While the rights of children were obvious, grown-ups had failed them deplorably in upholding many of them. The special session was a reminder that the promises made in the Millennium Declaration had been made to the next generation. That meant that a child born in the year 2000 had a right to expect to see a very different world by the time he or she was 15 years old.
Advancing the rights of children, said the President of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs of Qatar, Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Misnad, required a genuine political will and the mobilization of resources. Many developing countries, no matter how strong their resolve was, would find it difficult to commit themselves to the advancement of children as long as they were chaffing under the debt burden. She suggested that the international community enable countries to divert part of that debt to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), to be invested in those areas affecting children.
Among those sharing national experiences in the effort to improve the lives of children was Rwandan Prime Minister Bernard Makuza, who stated that despite the turmoil and upheaval following the devastating genocide in the early 1990s, the past eight years had been marked by significant achievements on behalf of Rwandese children. A major step had been the rehabilitation of Rwanda's schools, whereby more than 1 million children had since returned to school.
Also, he added, attention had been paid to reintegrating children accused of participating in the genocide back into society. To that end, such children had been now released from prison and were now reaping the benefits of new programmes aimed at their reintegration into society.
At the outset of the meeting, the Assembly took note of a letter from the Secretary-General, in which he informed it that 21 Member States were in arrears in the payment of their financial contributions to the United Nations within the terms of Article 19 of the Charter.
Also, the Assembly decided to appoint the following States to the Credentials Committee -- China, Denmark, Jamaica, Lesotho, Russian Federation, Senegal, Singapore, United States and Uruguay.
In addition, the Assembly adopted two decisions, contained in the report of the Preparatory Committee, on organizational arrangements for the special session and on presentation of the outcome of the children's forum to the General Assembly at its special session on children.
Further, the Assembly decided that the Vice-Presidents of the special session would be the same as those of its fifty-sixth regular session, namely Cambodia, China, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, France, Greece, Guatemala, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Malta, Mauritania, Nepal, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Republic of Moldova, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, United Kingdom and United States.
Likewise, it was decided that the Chairmen of the Main Committees of the fifty-sixth regular session should serve in the same capacity at the special session.
Regarding NGO participation, the Assembly agreed that representatives from the following eight NGOs could make statements in the plenary of the special session: Centre for the Culture of Peace and Non-violence "Mali Korak"; Christian Children's Fund; Forum for African Women Educationalists; Hague Appeal for Peace; Arigatou Foundation; NGO Committee on UNICEF; Save the Children Alliance; and South Asian Coalition on Child Servitude.
Also, the Assembly, without setting a precedent, agreed to hear a statement by the President of the Inter-Parliamentarian Council of the Inter-Parliamentarian Union in the plenary of the special session. It also adopted the provisional agenda for the special session.
Addressing the Assembly this morning was the President of the twenty-seventh special session, Han Seung-soo (Republic of Korea) and the Chairman of the Preparatory Committee for the special session, Patricia Durrant (Jamaica). Ms. Durrant was also elected as the Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee of the Whole.
Statements were also made by the heads of State of Sri Lanka, Romania, Lesotho, Croatia, Senegal, Suriname, Cape Verde, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Gabon as well as the heads of Government of Mongolia, Andorra, Equatorial Guinea and Jamaica. The Vice-Presidents of Viet Nam, Dominican Republic and Kenya spoke, as did the Deputy Prime Minister of Uzbekistan.
The Assembly further heard from the Crown Prince of Monaco and the Government Ministers of the United States and South Africa. In addition, representatives of Egypt, Argentina and the Republic of Korea also spoke.
The special session of the Assembly on children will continue it general exchange of views at 3 p.m.
The twenty-seventh special session of the General Assembly -- devoted to an end of decade review of the follow-up to the 1990 World Summit for Children -- opened this morning. The landmark meeting, scheduled to run through Friday, 10 May, will aim to bring together government leaders, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), children's advocates and children themselves to explore long-standing obstacles to young people's well-being and development, as well as new challenges to the promotion and protection of their rights.
The session will have before it several documents, including the Secretary-General's report We the Children: End-of Decade review of the follow-up to the World Summit for Children (document A/S-27/3). That report comprises a review of the implementation and results of the World Declaration and Plan of Action adopted at the 1990 Summit. It also elaborates on the best practices noted at the Summit and obstacles encountered in the implementation, as well as on measures to overcome those obstacles.
The report draws on a wide range of resources, including reports of the Executive Board of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and commitments made at other major United Nations and international conferences. The child mortality rate and other statistics contained in the report lend gravity to the basic United Nations assertion that serious investment in the rights and development of children is essential to overcoming poverty. The overall results reflect the world's failure to invest adequately in young people: over 10.5 million still die each year, often from readily preventable causes; an estimated 150 million are malnourished; and over 120 million never go to school, the majority of them girls.
Backed with data from nearly 150 countries, the report shows that the disparities and pervasive poverty of today are directly related to under investment in young people, especially their health, education and protection. The report states that if governments are truly serious about reducing poverty, then they must make children their first priority.
The session also has before it the Report of the Preparatory Committee for the special session on its third session (document A/S-27/2/Add.1, Part 1), which details the work of that Committee, including organizational matters and documentation. The report also included annexes which highlight a summary of the Committee's two panel discussions on children in armed conflict, and commercial exploitation of children.
Also before the session was a note on the round tables by the Office of the General Assembly President (document A/56/CRP.3/Rev.1), which lists the times and dates of the three round-table discussions taking place during the session. It notes that the discussions would have as their overarching theme "renewal of commitment and future action for children in the next decade". The co-chairs of the discussions are from the following countries: Finland, Mexico, Mongolia, Romania and Zambia.
According to the report, round table 1 will be held Wednesday, 8 May, from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Round table 2 will be held Thursday, 9 May, from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.; and round table 3 will be held Friday, 10 May, from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Also before the session is a letter dated 12 April 2002 from the Permanent Representative of Jamaica (document A/S-27/13) which contains the outcome of the five main regional processes held in preparation for the special session. It includes the Declaration from the Pan-African Forum on the Future of Children, Africa Fit for Children, the Kathmandu Understanding, from the South Asia High-level Meeting on Investing in Children, and the Berlin Commitment for Children of Europe and Central Asia, from the Berlin Conference on Children.
It also includes the Beijing Declaration on Commitments for Children in East Asia and Pacific Region 2001-2010 and the Kingston Consensus on Children and Social Policy in the Americas, from the fifth Ministerial Meeting on Children and Social Policy in the Americas, held in Jamaica.
The session has several other documents before it, including its provisional agenda (document A/S-27/1/Rev.1) and an information note on the arrangements for the session (document A/S-27/INF/1/Rev.1), which contains seven annexes that cover, among other things, the programme of scheduled meetings, registration and accreditation procedures.
Statement by Assembly President
HAN SEUNG-SOO (Republic of Korea), President of the General Assembly, said the special session on children had been one of the first major casualties of the tragic events of 11 September last year, which had compelled the postponement of the special session until now. Those events had made the issues at the core of this special session -- to give children not just their right to survival, protection and development, but a stake in the future of the world -- all the more pertinent.
Directing his remarks at the more than 70 of the world's leaders present, he said he was delighted that, once again, the leaders of the world had responded wholeheartedly in the name of children. "You have come to renew the commitments you made to children. And this time you are doing so in the presence of more than 1,000 non-governmental organizations and, very importantly, hundreds of children and young people", he said, adding, "This is a sign of one of the most important lessons of the last decade: progress for children depends on partnership between many players and on the participation of children and many young people themselves."
Looking to the future, he said there was still a long way to go, and, therefore, leaders must be serious and open about the challenges that remained -- about the unfinished business of the last decade. "Unless we understand and acknowledge our failures, we are in danger of repeating them", he added. He urged that, for the next three days, "we set aside any adult prejudices" and listen to, and learn from, the children and young people that were attending the special session. "The children of the world are watching us. They expect us to deliver on the promises we make here ... Let us not fail them."
Statement by Secretary-General
KOFI ANNAN, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that children everywhere had the right to grow up free of poverty and hunger; to have a quality education, whether they were girls or boys; to be protected from infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS; to grow up on a clean and healthy planet, with access to safe drinking water; and to be safe from the threat of war, abuse and exploitation.
While those rights were obvious, grown-ups had failed children deplorably in upholding many of them, he said. One in three children suffered from malnutrition before they turned five years old; one in four had not been immunized against any disease; almost one in five was not attending school; of those who did go to school, four out of five would never reach the fifth year of classes; so far, many of them had seen violence that no child should ever see; and all children lived under the threat of environmental degradation.
The special session was a reminder that the promises made in the Millennium Declaration had been made to the next generation, he said. That meant that a child born in the year 2000 had a right to expect to see a very different world by the time he or she was 15 years old. People may say that could not be done, but much had been achieved before in just 15 years.
He pointed out that a child born in 1964 had entered a world where tens of millions of people were infected with smallpox; in that child's fifteenth year, smallpox had been officially eradicated. A child born in 1976 had entered the world in one of the darkest and most brutal years of apartheid in South Africa. By the time that child was 15, Nelson Mandela had been released and the end of apartheid was in sight. Today, 10 years later, "Madiba" was at the special session, and still working harder than anyone to give children a better future.
A child born in 1982 had come into a world where there were no attempts to restrict the landmines that were being laid -- from Angola to Afghanistan -- which would kill and maim thousands of children, he said. In the year that child turned 15, a treaty had been signed that would ban the use of these abominable weapons. Children attending the session and their peers in every land had a right to expect the translation of words into action and the building of a world fit for children.
M. PATRICIA DURRANT (Jamaica), Chair of the Preparatory Committee for the session, presented the Committee's report. She said the Committee's efforts had led to today's gathering, where world leaders would have the opportunity to commit themselves to the unfinished business of the 1990 World Summit on Children, as well as new and emerging issues which affected the lives of children. In addition to its organizational session, she said, the Committee held three substantive sessions, several extended Bureau meetings and numerous informal consultations.
She said a series of seven panel discussions were held throughout the preparatory process. Those panels had enumerated several key themes that run throughout the outcome document, namely, review and assessment, including constraints encountered in implementing the goals of the World Summit; emerging issues; future actions for children; and the girl child. Another significant feature of the preparatory process was the five regional meetings held in Beijing, Berlin, Cairo, Katmandu and Kingston. Those meetings had produced their own declarations, which had been extremely important in assessing progress and highlighting regional concerns.
She said the Committee had also transmitted the special session's draft outcome document "A World Fit for Children" to the Assembly for further consideration. That document was divided into three main sections. The first, a declaration, was a political reaffirmation to follow up the1990 World Summit and address emerging issues. It contained 10 imperatives that had been used to mobilize support for a global movement that would help build a world fit for children.
The declaration, she continued, was followed by a review of progress and lessons learned, that provides a summary of accomplishments and shortfalls since the 1990 Summit. Section three, the Plan of Action, set out the vision of a world fit for children in which all children had access to basic education, get the best possible start in life, and had ample opportunity to develop their individual capacities. That section also identified the broad range of partners who were called to action in the best interest of children. The Plan further set out goals, strategies and action in four areas, including promoting healthy lives, providing quality education, protecting children from abuse, and combating HIV/AIDS.
GABRIELA AZURDUY ARRIETA, one of two child delegates, presented a message from the Children's Forum, entitled "A World Fit for Us". Excerpts of the message were as follows: "We are children whose voices are not being heard: it is time we are taken into account. We want a world fit for children, because a world fit for us is a world fit for everyone."
"In this world, we see respect for the rights of the child: governments and adults having a real and effective commitment to the principles of children's rights and applying the Convention on the Rights of the Child to all children, and safe, secure and healthy environments for children in families, communities and nations."
"We see an end to exploitation, abuse and violence: laws that protect children from exploitation and abuse being implemented and respected by all, and centres and programmes that help to rebuild the lives of victimized children."
"We wee an end to war: world leaders resolving conflict through peaceful dialogue instead of using force; child refugees and child victims of war protected in every way and having the same opportunities as all other children; and disarmament, elimination of the arms trade and an end to the use of child soldiers."
"We see the provision of health care: affordable and accessible life-saving drugs and treatment for all children, and strong and accountable partnerships established among all to promote better health for children."
"We see the eradication of HIV/AIDS: educational systems that include HIV prevention programmes; free testing and counselling centres; information about HIV/AIDS freely available to the public; and orphans of AIDS and children living with HIV/AIDS cared for and enjoying the same opportunities as all other children."
AUDREY CHENYNUT continued with the message as follows: "We see the protection of the environment: conservation and rescue of natural resources; awareness of the need to live in environments that are healthy and favourable to our development; and accessible surroundings for children with special needs."
"We see an end to the vicious cycle of poverty: anti-poverty committees that bring about transparency in expenditure and give attention to the needs of all children, and cancellation of the debt that impedes progress for children."
"We see the provision of education: equal opportunities and access to quality education that is free and compulsory; school environments in which children feel happy about learning; and education for life that goes beyond the academic and includes lessons in understanding, human rights, peace, acceptance and active citizenship."
"We are not the sources of problems; we are the resources that are needed to solve them. We are not expenses; we are investments. We are not just young people; we are people and citizens of this world ... You call us the future, but we are also the present."
CHANDRIKA BANDARANAIKE KUMARATUNGA, President of Sri Lanka, said it was apt that adults, who had the responsibility to ensure a conducive environment for the world's children to grow and blossom freely, were meeting to discuss ways to accomplish this.
Sri Lanka had done many things to keep its promise to children, in placing their needs high on the country's political agenda. Several decades of sustained commitment to develop health and education services had led to declines in infant, child and maternal mortality rates, as well as high literacy rates of over 90 per cent for men and women. That was in addition to free school and university education, she said.
Four years ago, her Government introduced an extensive educational reform programme aimed at qualitative development and quantitative coverage. The programme included early childhood development, extensive development of facilities for science and computer teaching, among others, in order to equip children better to face the challenges of the new age of science and information technology. Health had also been accorded the same level of high political priority as education, with free health care for all.
In spite of these advances, however, many challenges still remained, especially in the areas of malnutrition and an emerging threat of HIV/AIDS. She said that, following the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991, Sri Lanka had developed its own charter and had signed and ratified all Protocols and Conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO) relating to child labour. Her Government had also accorded priority to the prevention of the misuse of tobacco, alcohol and drugs, particularly by adolescents and youth. One of Sri Lanka's greatest challenges in recent times had been the protection of children from the impact of an 18-year civil conflict.
ION ILIESCU, President of Romania, said the condition of children could not be separated from the state of the general political, economic and social environment. Children were most vulnerable to the persisting scourges of poverty, disease, armed conflicts, discrimination, exploitative practices and environmental degradation.
He said those issues were highlighted in the Millennium Declaration, and they had also been discussed during the recent International Conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey, Mexico. "We shall certainly have to engage in a comprehensive examination of all those logical linkages at the forthcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg", he added.
Romania exemplified in many respects the daunting problems that countries in transition to a mature democracy and functional market economy had to face. An appalling legacy, he went on, especially concerning the condition of children, compounded the painful social costs of radical transformation.
Since widespread poverty was still a major challenge in Romania, a comprehensive set of measures had been devised to make the best of the limited resources available under a National Strategy for Child Protection. That strategy involved education and public health ministries, specialized agencies and local authorities, he stated.
He said further steps covered additional areas of vital significance, such as preventive programmes and generalized access to treatment and care for HIV/AIDS. Those programmes would be introduced by the end of this year as a result of a partnership with relevant United Nations agencies and pharmaceutical companies. Universal salt iodization would be in place by the end of 2003.
King LETSIE III of Lesotho said that the special session came at a critical time when the world was grappling with the threats and challenges facing children. More than a decade ago at the World Summit for Children, world leaders had committed to give every child a better future. When taking stock of the situation since then, the record was a mixed one. While notable progress had been made, new threats and challenges had surfaced, making it necessary to formulate new strategies and set new goals in a bid to make a world fit for children.
In sub-Saharan Africa, the central challenges included insecurity, severe poverty, famine, environmental degradation, internal conflict and the spread of diseases, including HIV/AIDS and malaria. A world fit for children meant, among other things, a world in which children were not forcibly recruited into military service. Above all, it meant a world in which children were not orphaned due to AIDS and war.
Since the Summit, there had been notable successes in the global movement for children's rights, including the establishment of the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict. In that context, he welcomed the promulgation of the Optional Protocol on the recruitment of underage children into military service. Also since the Summit, the international community had established legal protection for children involved in child labour and those involved in various forms of exploitation.
His Government had successfully disseminated the Convention on the Rights of the Child in the country, and young people and national organizations were playing active role in its implementation. Youth and children had participated actively in local, national and regional preparations for the special session. All of that was done with the belief that children had the right to express themselves freely and their views should be respected and promoted. Moreover, young people were taking part in the long-term development of the country. Access to basic education and literacy were the fundamental right of every child, and the Government was committed to providing a healthy start to the life of every child. By 2006, all primary school-age children would have free access to education. As part of that campaign, literacy programmes for out-of-school youth had been expanded.
Among the new challenges was HIV/AIDS, which, along with severe poverty, was largely responsible for the disintegration of families, lower school enrolment and child exploitation. The need for the community as a whole to assume new responsibilities as care providers had become even more urgent. His Government was determined to redirect resources to achieve an environment conducive to the development of children. He hoped that the United Nations system and the international community would continue to assist Lesotho in helping to achieve children's rights. In protecting children and charting a new course for their future, it was necessary to redouble efforts for poverty eradication. Also, it was necessary to change mindsets and treat every child as a person with potential to enrich the lives of others immensely.
BERNARD MAKUZA, Prime Minister of Rwanda, said that 12 years ago his country, like others, had undertaken a set of commitments on behalf of children. Despite the turmoil and upheaval following the devastating genocide in the early 1990s, the past eight years had been marked by significant achievements on behalf of Rwandan children, including the signing of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and two optional protocols. A legislative and juridical review was under way to ensure that laws and policies conformed to that important instrument. He added that Rwanda had also joined in the global movement, "Say Yes for Children".
He said another major step had been the rehabilitation of Rwanda's schools following the genocide. More than 1 million children had since returned to school. Rwanda had also set up an expanded immunization programme for children under five. The past decade had been marked by upheaval -- culminating in the genocide of 1994, which had left some 600,000 orphans, more than 65,000 of which were now heads of households. But great strides in social rehabilitation had been tremendously effective, and the situation of children affected by those horrific events was slowly improving. Most importantly, attention had been paid to reintegrating children accused of participating in the genocide back into society. To that end, such children had now been released from prison and were reaping the benefits of new programmes aimed at their reintegration into society.
Still, he continued, it could not be denied that the genocide had severely affected Rwanda's efforts to improve the condition of its children. He appealed to the international community to provide assistance so that Rwanda could step up its already effective programmes in social reintegration, immunization, and the repatriation of Rwandan children outside the country. His country also needed further assistance with providing health care and financing programmes to combat HIV/AIDS, particularly those aiming to reduce mother-to-child transmission.
He urged all nations to say "no" to all shameful and degrading practices, such as child exploitation, trafficking in children and the use of children in armed forces. After the trauma of the genocide, Rwanda had committed itself to investment in children, and they would remain central in its concerns.
STJEPAN MESIĆ, President of Croatia, said that if nations really wanted to give the children of the world a better future after the tragic events of 11 September, they should include the elimination of global terrorism because children were also abused when trained to be future terrorists, besides the fact that children were also victims of terrorism. The time had come to change things all over the world and to restore "childhood to our children, to offer them prospects, and thereby assure the future of our nations and countries".
Noting that, although, literally, the condition of the world's children was better than it had been yesterday, he said their position in many parts of the world was "not good", particularly in underdeveloped countries where he described the situation as "disastrous". However, the fight to improve the condition of the children needed to be fought collectively, since some could not do so on their own, while others found it difficult to decide even what they could do. "Therefore, we need a concerted, coordinated, long-term effort, a clear concept and, of course, the required funds", he said. Croatia would support and be actively involved, within the context of the efforts taken by the United Nations, in every project focussed on improving the status of children in the world.
NAMBAR ENKHBAYAR, Prime Minister of Mongolia, noted that the end-decade review of the follow-up to the World Summit for Children revealed significant progress towards achieving a substantial reduction in under-five mortality rates; high and sustained levels of child immunization; an increase in school enrolment rates of children and in adult literacy rates; and heightened awareness of child rights issues. Those issues were being placed higher on national and global agendas.
Yet, much more remained to be done to effectively address persistent and evolving threats to the survival and development of children, he said. It was absolutely unacceptable that at a time of unprecedented global prosperity and opportunity, 600 million children struggled to survive on $1 a day; more than 10 million still died each year, often from readily preventable causes; 170 million were still malnourished; and nearly 120 million of them had never seen the inside of a school.
To redress that depressing situation, the world must invest generously in children, he said. Despite enormous economic difficulties, Mongolia had managed to achieve its national targets in reducing infant and under-five mortality rates; substantially reducing the number of school dropouts; improving child immunization coverage; and developing a rights-based approach to child-related issues.
He said his country still faced daunting challenges in ensuring sustained growth and sustainable development; substantially reducing poverty and unemployment; effectively addressing and preventing hitherto hidden problems related to street children, juvenile offences, alcohol and tobacco abuse; and tackling such emerging transboundary threats as child trafficking and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS.
ABDOULAYE WADE, President of Senegal, began by noting that for Africans the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) represented both a vision and a strategy and was the only way to make Africa competitive on an equal footing with the rest of the international community.
The assessment of the Plan of Action adopted at the World Summit for Children had shown that significant progress had been made for the survival, development and protection of children. Senegal had been one of the first countries in the world to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Its implementation had helped to reduce malnutrition and improve the lives of girls and children, among other things. His Government had made children's development one of its main priorities. Senegal was also developing research on AIDS with two leading world experts.
With the goal of educating all children, the Government had launched an initiative to provide pre-school services in each of the 28,000 villages in the country. It had also set up a ministry for young people, as well as a national council for young people. During the special session, world leaders must commit to building a world fit for children.
RUNALDO RONALD VENETIAAN, President of Suriname, said more than a decade had passed since the 1990 World Summit for Children. In cooperation with community groups, UNICEF and other international and regional organizations, Suriname had made great strides to set forth the goals adopted at that historic meeting. Changes that had made things better for Suriname's children had been made in spite of political, structural and financial constraints that had slowed the country's social and economic development over the past 10 years. The Government had assessed national legislation, and was currently in the process of amending laws that did not conform with the Convention on the Rights of the child.
By example, he said Suriname's National Assembly had adopted legislation in 1990 to eliminate discrimination against children born out of wedlock. Further, vaccination coverage had improved over the past decade; national maternal mortality rates had decreased; and much effort had been made to prevent childhood diseases and malnutrition. Education had always been a priority in Suriname, and to ensure the right to education for all, the Government put great emphasis on mobilizing more resources to invest in the education sector.
He went on to highlight Suriname's effective substance abuse prevention and treatment programmes, as well as its life skills programmes aimed at informing children of health-risk issues and equipping them with the skills to make health choices. He stressed that poverty, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, malaria and war were among the greatest obstacles to the full promotion and protection of the rights of children. It was well known that children were the hardest hit by poverty, and the eradication of that scourge remained a serious obstacle in Suriname.
While the Millennium Summit had provided the international community with a useful strategic framework for overcoming poverty, urgent action was needed if global actors were to halt and reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2015. Achieving that and other Millennium Development Goals would require comprehensive and concerted action by all. It would also require the allocation of many more material and financial resources than were now available. The same applied for combating diseases like malaria. That disease had re-emerged in Suriname as a major cause of mortality. He called on the Assembly to ensure that the best interest of children remained important when world leaders considered principles of democracy, equality, non-discrimination, peace and social justice.
MARC FORNÉ MOLNÉ, Prime Minister of Andorra, stressed the need for specific action, particularly in the fields of education and health. Andorra had been most sensitive to those two spheres since its population had a high percentage of young people. The principality had 9,000 school children in an educational system offering parents a free choice between different systems and where schooling was compulsory until the age of 16 years. Andorra also had a whole series of primary health-care services that enabled personalized quality attention.
He said that local councils, various associations and the Government were promoting joint participatory policies that would be reflected in the National Youth Council. For that reason, Andorra clearly advocated the strengthening of all educational policies for all children, especially girls, since access to education from the very beginning of their lives helped them to become citizens who were aware of their rights and duties.
Nothing could justify the abuse of children, he stressed, whether it was their participation in armed conflicts, their exploitation in work, or their trafficking and sexual exploitation. The special session must send a clear message of condemnation of all those abuses: no more child soldiers, no more young people exploited in labour, no more boy and girl prostitutes. The success of the session would be evaluated by the policies that governments would draw up in accordance with the closing declaration.
PEDRO VERONA RODRIGUES PIRES, President of Cape Verde, said despite all the efforts undertaken since the 1990 Summit, millions of children continued to die each year from clearly avoidable causes. Millions were also routinely denied access to basic education. Wars provided no respite, and reports showed that some 22 million children worldwide had been orphaned or displaced because of violence; the children of Palestine were a prime example of this. Even within their own families -- supposedly the cradle of love and affection -- millions of children suffered abuse and ill-treatment in silence.
He was convinced that investing in children was the one guarantee for the success of all human kind. Children in Cape Verde enjoyed a set of renewed rights, as all the international conventions and protocols had been ratified. Still, it was one thing to have a list of rights available, but it was another to be able to practise and enjoy them. The challenge, then, was to create essential conditions so rights could be practised equally by all.
The international community should work to build a better world where justice for children would not depend on the colour of their skin or social status, he said. Actions on behalf of children should be rooted in international legitimacy in order to ensure that the youth of today would be able to overcome hatred and marginalization.
BORIS TRAJKOVSKI, President of The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, said that the bitter experience of his region, including the most recent events in his country, were further proof of the need to fully implement the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its two Optional Protocols. His Government was making efforts to review its legislation and adopt appropriate amendments to ensure full conformity with the Convention. The National Action Plan had been incorporated into a national development plan, social policies and sectoral programmes. His country had also signed the two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Furthermore, he continued, the National Commission for the implementation of the National Action Plan was established for the effective evaluation and implementation of the rights of the child, as stipulated in the Convention. The Ombudsperson for children's rights was also appointed within the National Ombudsman Office.
He also stressed the good cooperation between his Government and UNICEF in the field of child protection, especially in the area of primary health care and education. The Government was now in the process of signing the third Master Plan of Operation, for the period 2002-2004. Programme activities were expected to directly benefit all children under 18. A special emphasis was given to the activities related to the reduction of prenatal infant and maternal mortality rates and to providing better formal pre-school education. In addressing those issues, the Government would collaborate closely with local communities, national NGOs and international organizations, which had contributed to the success of past projects.
CANDIDO MUATETEMA RIVAS, Prime Minister of Equatorial Guinea, said the special session was being held in the context of concern for the unfortunate situation of children everywhere. The world watched in continued impotence as children continued to be the victims of armed conflict, social injustice and other abuses perpetrated by those who were older than them, as well as being subjected to HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, hunger and malnutrition.
He said that a careful analysis of the situation revealed that the world faced an imminent disaster that would be the result of the actions of human beings themselves and of which children would be the victims. Adults were responsible for wars, acts of terrorism and the marginalization of human beings for reasons of race or religion. They were also responsible for the destruction of the environment and ecosystems upon which human survival depended and which they should guarantee for the future of their children.
For the Government of Equatorial Guinea, the solution lay in the elimination of poverty in order to provide a better life for the children, he said. However it did not want the kind of development that promoted depravity under the pretext of protecting the rights and freedoms of young people. The Government had adopted relevant strategies to protect children based on several actions, including a National Action Plan for Children and Women established in 1991.
He said the Government had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1992. It provided free and compulsory primary education and a national vaccination programme to promote community participation in primary health care. In 1996, in collaboration with UNICEF, it had held the first national forum on the implementation of the rights of the child and to review the National Action Plan. Science and technology was the best vehicle to strengthen international cooperation, without which there would be a widening of the abyss between developed and developing countries, a situation that would be bequeathed to the children.
PERCIVAL JAMES PATTERSON, Prime Minister of Jamaica, noted that the world could record with considerable satisfaction the progress achieved in reducing under-five mortality; heightening immunization levels; preventing iodine deficiency disorders; and increasing the activities of civil society and those advocating the rights of children. There had been a tightening of the legal regime governing those rights with the entry into force of the two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of Child, which Jamaica would ratify during the session.
But all too soon, the landscape changed he said. The world was confronted with the lamentable reality of children robbed of their childhood innocence as they fell victim to war or were used as drug traffickers or perpetrators of violent crimes. Others were victims of the most shameful human activities, sold into slavery and sexually abused. Many were devastated by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which not only impeded their physical and emotional development, but made them orphans as well. Globalization had not reduced appalling hardships, especially for children in developing countries. Poverty remained the biggest single obstacle, causing death, stultifying growth and breeding abject despair.
In Jamaica, policy-makers had been focusing on children and youth in the national development process, he said. They had fashioned a comprehensive approach to children's issues in a process involving national consultations with key players, including representatives of the Government, the private sector, NGOs and youth. Important milestones included the development of a National Plan of Action for Children and other supportive policies. A legislative review and reform would culminate in the promulgation of a new Child Care and Protection Act.
He stressed the need to continue building on the actions taken by the Security Council to meet the needs of children and adolescents in armed conflict situations. It was also necessary to bridge the widening gap in opportunity between rich and poor countries and to harness advances in technology, particularly in the area of research, to benefit children in developing countries, whose needs for education, primary health care and food were still to be fully met.
EL HADJ OMAR BONGO, President of Gabon, said that the special session provided an opportunity to decide what lessons had been learned and to map out new solutions to ensure that a better future was offered to the world's children. The situation of children today was not that great. Their dreams and hopes were often dashed by evils they were not responsible for. While they made up one third of the world, they were among the first to fall victim to disease and violence. It must be acknowledged that the situation of children in the developing countries was most critical.
Despite its economic difficulties, Gabon had always attached priority to education. Also, sustained efforts had been made in the area of health, particularly in protecting the mother and child. All those actions had been pursued as part of the struggle against poverty. There was a saying in Gabon that youth were sacred, he noted. Children and adolescents were at the heart of the country's policies. Active solidarity was needed at the global level. Because children were the link with the future, the special session must not be allowed to shatter their hopes.
NGUYEN THI BINH, Vice-President of Viet Nam, said that over the past 10 years the Convention on the Rights of the Child had become a moving force and a noble goal for all those that had signed or ratified it. Despite that fact that many goals had not been reached, it was true that many children's lives had been saved and many had been able to attend schools because of the 1990 Summit and the near-universal ratification of the Convention. The issue of children was now high on international agendas.
That was a good thing, she said, since emerging issues such as the spread of HIV/AIDS globalization and protracted conflict situations were not affecting efforts to improve the situation of the world youth. The international community must, therefore, reaffirm its dedication to children and cooperate to build a world fit for children in the new century. Viet Nam was aware that implementation of the goals of the 1990 Summit were a great responsibility. Despite the country's economic difficulties and the lingering effects of war, great strides had been made to improve children's rights.
While Viet Nam was one of the poorest countries in the world, it could be proud of its achievements, she said. The most tangible results of the efforts included the reduction in the infant mortality rate, and eradication of illiteracy and vitamin A deficiency. Viet Nam's Plan of Action on Children aimed to improve primary and secondary education, enhance the country's efforts to fight against HIV/AIDS, and protect against all forms of abuse. A major goal of the Plan was to enable nearly 1 million children victims of toxic chemicals such as agent orange to enjoy the same rights and protections as all other children. The new Plan was in line with the country's efforts to eradicate famine and reduce poverty.
She said that achieving all those goals would not be easy, but Viet Nam was aware of its moral responsibility. Moreover, the country would make every possible effort to mobilize the participation of families, care-givers and community groups to aid in the implementation of its programmes and policies. She added that Viet Nam sympathized with the difficulties faced by women and children in poor nations, as well as those affected by wars or embargoes in places such as Palestine, Cuba and Iraq. The international community should take care to ensure that the most vulnerable populations -- women and, particularly, children -- were safe from harm and that their rights were promoted and protected.
Crown Prince ALBERT of Monaco, said that 12 years ago the World Summit for Children had first raised the questions of child labour, school attendance and child health, which were then very sensitive. Today, amid the terrorism that had already caused the postponement of the special session, they remained questions of concern, in addition to new ones such as increasing poverty, HIV/AIDS, the use of children in armed conflict and child prostitution.
He said that the present international situation and the deteriorating economic and social conditions in many countries made it unavoidable to emphasize the need to respect and protect the rights of children in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child to which almost all United Nations Member States had acceded. All States, whether party to the Convention or not, were duty-bound to protect children, who must enjoy the same universal rights, including social and cultural ones, enjoyed by all human beings.
States should make efforts at the national and international levels to reinforce all available means, including legal measures, to strengthen the prosecution and punishment to those who perpetrated unnatural crimes against children, by designating such crimes as crimes against humanity and making them subject to extradition. Children must also be protected from the blind brutality related to international terrorism, of which they were often the first and most innocent victims.
Monaco had unreservedly associated itself with the Monterrey Consensus, he said. That "Summit against Poverty" represented fundamental and undeniable progress in international financing for development. The time for handouts and condescending charity was long past. Donors and recipients must become true partners and allies, determined to pursue joint action, taking into account the needs of the former and the potential of the latter. Consultations between them must be broader and more balanced. Increasingly extensive educational programmes must be implemented to familiarize children with the human values they needed for their dignity and self-respect.
MILAGROS ORTIZ BOSCH, Vice-President of the Dominican Republic, said that despite years of sustained growth, poverty had increased in her country due to the accumulation of vast amounts of wealth by a few. That had affected the children of the country most of all. In 1991, her Government had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and had undertaken to assimilate child protection into its institutions. Among other things, it had adopted laws on protection, education, violence in the family and health.
Together with UNICEF, the Government was organizing a national consultation to support the plan to ensure the rights of children. It was implementing programmes to create child development centres and children's community homes, which would provide comprehensive attention to the needs of children. There was also an ambitious programme being undertaken to pay attention to grammar school children. The Government was hurrying to improve the lot of its children.
Also, in January, the Department of the Armed Forces had started a project to provide hospitals and facilities to reintegrate street children into society. The Government had implemented an inclusive type of education to provide access to the school system for children with special needs. The President had created a social cabinet to coordinate action and follow up on the social investments being made. Through that cabinet, the Government was promoting and executing actions to fight poverty and improve the well-being of families. Despite the poverty and lost years, the Government was working for its hope -- its children.
GEORGE SAITOTI, Vice-President and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kenya, said the Convention on the Rights of the Child -- one of the most important instruments for defining and safeguarding the rights of children -- had served his country well, especially in strengthening its efforts to address new and emerging issues. Kenya had established a task force to draw up a plan of action adopted at the 1990 Summit on Children. A new Comprehensive Children's Statute had been enacted by Parliament and was now operational. That legislation outlined all Kenya's safeguards for the rights and welfare of children.
He said a Family Court had been established to promote the welfare of the family as custodians of the rights of children. Similarly, Kenya had established specific programmes for maternal child health and immunization. Those measures had assisted the country in preventing early childhood diseases such as measles and diarrhoea. To address the basic causes of malnutrition, Kenya had developed a national food policy with the objective of improving food security at the household and national levels.
The Government was determined to encourage production of high nutrient food crops and promote the proper storage of food at the community level to meet the demands of providing better health for children, he continued. A school-feeding programme targeted at children living in arid or semi-arid areas had not only supplemented the dietary needs of those children, but it had also improved their participation and performance at school. Reducing malnutrition also required significant enhancement in the education levels of care-givers. To that end, he said Kenya had developed an Early Childhood Development Policy focusing on children from birth to the age of six.
Poverty remained a major challenge to Kenya's efforts to meet the needs of children, he said. Poverty greatly compromised his country's ability to address the pressing needs of children in areas such as health care, nutrition and basic education. At the same time, poor health and malnutrition were the key reasons for the persistence of poverty. In an attempt to respond to those challenges, Kenya had developed a Poverty Reduction Strategy Policy. Other problems Kenya faced included the HIV/AIDS pandemic, armed conflict and the burden of external debt. It was disturbing that the "peace dividend" expected at the end of the cold war had not materialized. Indeed, billions of dollars were still being spent to purchase destructive weapons. Those resources should be invested in improving the well-being of children, particularly those in developing countries.
DILBAR GULYAMOVA, Deputy Prime Minister of Uzbekistan, said that, like many other countries, hers supported and approved all initiatives of the United Nations aimed at guaranteeing the interests of children. She said that, since the first days of its independence, Uzbekistan had made priorities of the legal, economic and social protection of motherhood and childhood, creation of conditions for comprehensive and harmonious development, and education of children and teenagers.
She outlined programmes and measures her Government had put in place to protect the interests and rights of children, as well as other vulnerable groups in society, such as women, the handicapped, orphans and the poor. Those included the provision of free comprehensive and quantitative compulsory 12-year education and the issuance of State grants for the education of young people at higher and middle special educational institutions. Other measures were aimed at ensuring the creation of a system of ethnic norms and rules with respect to the family, mother and child. The State policy of Uzbekistan with regard to children provided for the comprehensive ensured protection of the family, motherhood and childhood, she added.
SHEIKHA MOZAH BINT NASSER AL-MISNAD, President of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs of Qatar, said that an analysis of the present reality reflected a bitter reminder of the flagrant contradictions between ideals and legal rules, on the one hand, and reality, on the other. How could there be a discussion of the human right to life in the face of the tragic reality unfolding in Palestine? she asked. What sin had infants and children committed to be deprived of food, medicine, education and even life? In giving priority to children, she urged that it begin with the children of Palestine and all the children of the world. Then, and only then, would the session be special, not only in the significance of its convening, but also in the level of its resolution and recommendations.
The rights of the child hinged, she said, on the actual realization of the rights and duties of the family. The rights of children should be linked to the system of rights that every human being was supposed to enjoy. Any real progress in that regard must be measured by the extent of the evolution of public freedoms, participation in decision-making, and the expansion of functions and roles of civil society organizations.
The rights of children required, first and foremost, genuine political will and, equally important, the mobilization of the necessary resources, she said. Many developing countries, no matter how strong their resolve, would find it difficult to commit themselves to plans for the advancement of children as long as they were chaffing under the burden of indebtedness. It was the responsibility of the international community to divert part of the indebtedness of those States to UNICEF to be invested according to an institutional scheme in the development fields that affected children.
TOMMY THOMPSON, Secretary of Health and Human Services of the United States, said that since the 1990 World Summit on Children, his country had continued to make substantial progress for children in the areas of health, nutrition, education, labour and the environment. The United States took great pride in creating a future of limitless possibilities for its children. All children, he added, deserved a global strategy that was focused, visionary and action-oriented. The international community must wed the unfinished agenda of the 1990s with the future challenges facing children and their families.
Highlighting some recent statistics, he said child poverty rate had declined over the past 10 years in the United States, adding, as well, that routine immunization coverage levels for children two years of age were at, or near, all time highs. Recently, the United States had begun promoting healthy behaviours and right choices for young people. Efforts included strengthening close parent-child relationships, encouraging delays in sexual activity, and supporting abstinence programmes.
He went on to say that his country's work on behalf of children extended beyond its borders and encompassed a wide array of partners, including NGOs, foundations and research organizations. He said the United States had already committed some $500 million to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, and the U.S. Center for Disease Control was currently working with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Rotary International in the global effort to eradicate polio. Having just visited Africa where he witnessed first hand the devastating effects of the AIDS pandemic, he urged the international community to join forces to help eradicate that scourge.
Over the past decade, the United States had enhanced its global efforts to improve the lives of children, mothers and fathers. By example, he noted that his country provided $2.5 billion in assistance to child survival programmes in developing countries. By September of this year, it would have contributed nearly $157 million to the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour since 1995. Despite those and other efforts, critical challenges remained, as all children deserved to live in nurturing homes and communities, and to realize their own unique promise. To that end, President Bush's new education plan "No Child Left Behind" enabled all students in America to have a better chance to learn and excel and live out their dreams.
ESSOP GOOLAM PAHAD, Minister in the Office of the President of South Africa, said, on the occasion when the world had come together to discuss the well-being of children, his delegation vividly recalled that young people -- many of them hardly in their teens -- had been instrumental in the fight against apartheid. South Africa saluted those children that had faced police bullets and army might with their bare hands in the name of non-racialism and democracy. Given those bitter experiences, South Africa felt the daily pain and anger caused by the continued brutalization of Palestinian children. Those children deserved to live in peace, comfort and security. He expressed solidarity with all children caught in the nightmare of war and armed conflict.
He said the South African Constitution strongly promoted the rights of children. South Africa had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and had ratified the African Union Charter on the Rights and Welfare of Children. The Charter, he added, pointed the way towards cooperative regional efforts. It was only by working together that the nations of the African continent would be able to address the issues that plagued the effort to improve the lot of their children, namely, poverty and gross underdevelopment.
He said the impact of poverty and underdevelopment and the suffering and disease those scourges exacerbated was well known. But for the first time in history, there was an opportunity to bring about change that would evince real development and prosperity for the African continent and its people, particularly the children. The NEPAD could be an important vehicle for advancing and sustaining the rights of Africa's children, women and poor people. Upon ratification of the Convention, Africa had developed a National Programme of Action for Children which effectively mainstreamed issues affecting the lives of children and committed all spheres of Government to work in their behalf.
He also said that health-care services were free for pregnant mothers and children under the age of six. Primary health care was free for all children. Protecting children in the criminal justice system was also a priority, and Parliament would soon debate a Child Justice Bill on children accused of crimes. That Bill, once adopted, would set a new minimum age for criminal capacity, establish special legal procedures, and provide a creative range of sentencing options. The Government had also amended existing legislation to provide for more comprehensive definition of commercial exploitation of children. One of the Government's main priorities was effective service delivery to children. While much remained to be done in that regard, the Government would strengthen its resolve to put programmes in place to ensure that its policies on behalf of children would be quickly and effectively implemented.
SUZANNE MUBARAK, Chairperson of the delegation of Egypt, said that, in the occupied Palestinian territories, there had been violations of all international agreements and charters pertaining to human rights, at the forefront of which were those on the rights of children. The negative and traumatic repercussions of those violations would not affect the children of Palestine alone, but would affect children in the region and the world without distinction, sowing the seeds of hatred and creating an atmosphere of violence.
Recent events in the region had occurred as the world stood by, she said. Had the world lost its conscience or were different standards being applied in today's world. She appealed for collective responsibility in ending the human rights violations, stemming the bloodshed in the Palestinian territories and seeking peaceful and just solutions to provide a safe life for the children, regardless of their affiliation or nationality. Children should not bear the burden of the past because they belonged to the future.
She said she had led her country's delegation to the World Summit for Children, and Egypt had been one of six countries calling for the present special session. The session coincided with unprecedented global challenges for the world's children, the repercussions of which extended to children. Those challenges included the political and economic ramifications of globalization, successive technological developments, structural adjustments, armed conflicts and the prevalence of HIV/AIDS. Much had been accomplished, but the question remained as to the nature of international programmes of action and priorities for the next decade.
The issues were complementary, requiring a real international partnership that would provide solutions to the problems of children of the developing world, she said. Egypt, belonging to the Arab and African world, had hosted the two preparatory meetings for the session. The African continent represented the greatest development challenge, and the African child was still in need. It was up to the international community to translate their dreams into reality. She reaffirmed that stability, peace and ending foreign occupation -- not only in Africa and the Middle East, but in the whole world -- were essential preconditions for peace in the family. Peace in the world was indivisible.
NORBERTO LIWSKI, President of the National Council for Children, Adolescents and the Family of Argentina, said it would be unacceptable to consider the status of children and teenagers in his country since 1990 without acknowledging Argentina's current social and economic difficulties. It was important to recall that, a mere 100 days ago, the social and political tensions in the country had peaked when acts of violence and wanton destruction had pushed Argentina to the brink of total social disintegration.
Argentina's current economic and social crisis, which affected the health and welfare of all its citizens, had been particularly harsh for its children. The status of children whose parents had lost their jobs or even homes was most dramatic. If the current crisis for children continued, the overall well-being of the country could be affected for years. Currently, six out of every 10 Argentine children lived below the poverty level. About 1.5 million were excluded from education and work. There was also the problem of sexual abuse and victimization by criminal networks.
Those and other problems were the central focus of the Government's efforts to implement innovative strategies on behalf of Argentine youth. Those plans included developing active social policies based on rights enshrined in international human rights instruments, as well as recognizing the important role NGOs can play in child welfare schemes. The Federal Education Act had been the start of a major effort to develop a system of broad inclusion in school systems and enhancing the overall quality of education. Argentina was determined to overcome its complex economic and social difficulties. The way forward for children included, among other initiatives, strengthening the family, promoting the principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and enhancing participation of civil society and religious groups.
LEE HEE HO, Chairperson of the delegation of the Republic of Korea, said that the meeting came eight months later than originally scheduled in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 11 September. In the intervening months, the world had "re-awakened" to the value of world peace and security for all peoples.
Just three weeks from now, the Republic of Korea and Japan would co-host the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan, and her country was planning to turn the World Cup into a celebration for children and world peace. During the World Cup, UNICEF and her country would join forces to sponsor the World Peace Festival for Children. "It will be an excellent opportunity for children from different corners of the globe to make friends and, at the same time, experience first hand the values of peace by actually visiting the land divided into South and North Korea, the last remaining legacy of the cold war."
She pointed out that it was a fact that a "World Fit for Children" had not yet been achieved as, at this very moment, countless children were falling to poverty, malnutrition and abuse, in addition to the many dreadful diseases such as HIV/AIDS. Her Government, for one, would make its best effort to faithfully carry out all the pledges made during the current special session. It would also gradually increase its contributions to and support for various UNICEF activities.
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