13 May 2002
General Assembly, Concluding Special Session on Children, Adopts Outcome Document - "A World Fit for Children"
NEW YORK, 10 May (UN Headquarters) -- Concluding its special session on children tonight, the General Assembly adopted the final outcome document -- "A World Fit for Children" -- which reaffirms the commitment of governments to complete the unfinished agenda of the 1990 World Summit for Children.
The document, which was adopted without a vote, contains a Declaration and a Plan of Action, which together aim to chart a course for a global movement that would strengthen international actions for the promotion of children's rights in the twenty-first century and beyond.
Assembly President Han Seung-soo (Republic of Korea), in concluding remarks following the text's adoption, applauded the work of government leaders, civil society and children themselves. He said the Declaration described very clearly the steps to be taken in building a new world fit for children. It was a practical and achievable checklist, not only for a better future, but also for immediate action that would improve child well-being today. Significant national efforts, including the mobilization of human, financial and material resources, were essential for achieving the targets outlined in the document.
He said the Plan of Action the document contained established new goals for children and set out specific targets in the fields of health, education, protection against abuse, exploitation and violence, as well as in the struggle against HIV/AIDS among children. Building on the lessons learned since the 1990 World Summit for Children, it took into account the emerging challenges and opportunities of today's world.
Summing up the special session, he said a record number of side events had taken place, with Member States, United Nations agencies, intergovernmental organizations, religious leaders, parliamentarians, non-governmental organizations and the private sector sharing their experiences and vision with children. But the session should not be seen as an end in itself, he cautioned.
Rather, he said, it was a milestone in a long journey that had begun in 1990 with the World Summit and gathered momentum during the 1990s. It had eventually led to the international community agreeing on a plan for the future of children in a world where their basic needs would be met and their rights respected and promoted.
Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), making concluding remarks on behalf of Secretary-General Kofi Annan, said the three-day event marked the first General Assembly session where children were not only seen but also heard. The Secretary-General had repeatedly recognized that children were not only an investment -- investing in them was the first essential step towards breaking the cycle of poverty.
Discussion during this afternoon's final meeting focused on such topics as trafficking in children, including for purposes of child prostitution and child pornography; child labour; the disparity between boys and girls in access to education; and female genital mutilation.
In other business this afternoon, the Assembly adopted the report of its Credentials Committee.
The problem of child soldiers, the impact of armed conflict on children, the effects of poverty on child welfare and the spectre of HIV/AIDS were recurring themes throughout the special session. Several speakers pointed out the paradox that extreme poverty existed side by side with unprecedented global wealth and technological innovation.
During the opening meeting of the session, Secretary-General Kofi Annan addressed himself directly to the world's children, emphasizing that they 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 deplorably in upholding many of them, he said.
Ms. Bellamy, speaking at the second plenary meeting, said that child rights, women's rights and people-centred development were now widely regarded as ideas whose time had come. It was the first time that the Assembly had addressed the issue of children in a special session.
Mary Robinson, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, told the session that a human rights approach to the well-being of children required States to make every effort to eliminate all forms of discrimination against children.
Addressing the final plenary meeting today were the Presidents of Zimbabwe, Benin, Sao Tome and Principe, Guinea-Bissau and Kiribati.
Also speaking was the Vice-President of Panama.
The Assembly also heard statements by the Deputy Prime Ministers of Moldova, Russian Federation and Bulgaria.
Among the other speakers were the Minister for Social Affairs, Advancement of Women and Childhood Protection of Togo; Minister of Health of Indonesia; Minister of Social Security and Labour of Lithuania; Minister for Children and Young People of the United Kingdom; Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan; Minister for Social Affairs and Labour, Electricity and Water of Kuwait; Minister for Women Affairs and Child Welfare of Namibia; Minister for Social Affairs of the Democratic Republic of the Congo; and the Minister for Social Welfare and Development of the Sudan.
Other ministerial speakers were the Minister of Planning of Angola; Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children's Affairs of Sierra Leone; Minister, Chairperson of the National Commission on Family and Women Affairs of Kazakhstan; Minister of Social Development, Ecclesiastical and Gender Affairs of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Minister of Justice of Afghanistan; Minister of Public Health of Colombia; Minister for Foreign Affairs of Venezuela; Minister of Gender and Development of Liberia; Minister for Health and Social Welfare of Swaziland; and the Minister of State for the Prime Minister's Office, Community Development and Sports of Singapore.
Also making statements were the Secretary-General of the Council of Ministers of Vanuatu and the State Secretary and Head of the Delegation of Switzerland.
Representatives of the Seychelles; Bolivia; Denmark; Samoa; Somalia; Lebanon; Solomon Islands; and Sweden also made statements, as did the President of the Economic and Social Council.
The Assembly also heard statements by representatives of the Permanent Observer Mission of the League of Arab States; the European Community; and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
Speaking for other observer delegations were representatives of the Council of Europe; International Committee of the Red Cross; Sovereign Military Order of Malta; International Organization of La Francophonie; International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies; International Organization for Migration; Puerto Rico; and the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
The Assembly heard statements by representatives of the following non-governmental organizations: The Hague Appeal for Peace; South Asian Coalition on Child Servitude; Forum for African Women Educationalists; NGO Committee on UNICEF; Save the Children Alliance; Christian Children's Fund; and Centre for the Culture of Peace and Non-violence "Mali Korak".
Also during the meeting, the Co-chairs of the three round tables held during the special session under the overarching theme of "Renewal of commitment and future action for children in the next decade" reported on the respective discussions.
As the session concluded its work tonight, the Assembly heard statements of position on the documents adopted by the representatives of Iran, El Salvador, Costa Rica, who spoke on behalf of the Rio Group, Argentina, Honduras, Spain, who spoke for the European Union, Nicaragua, United States, Bolivia and Canada.
Concluding statements were made by the representatives of Benin, for the Group of African States, Guinea-Bissau, and the observer for the Holy See.
The twenty-seventh special session of the General Assembly -- devoted to an end-of-decade review of the follow-up to the 1992 World Summit for Children -- met this afternoon to conclude its general debate and consider a final outcome document.
ROBERT MUGABE, President of Zimbabwe, said that for his country, poverty and disease, now compounded by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, remained major obstacles to upholding the rights of the child. Therefore, he was pleased to note that at the recent International Conference on Financing for Development, the international community had affirmed that sustainable development was essential for poverty eradication. Sustainable development could only be assured if investment in it had children's development as the main target. The racially imbalanced distribution of resources in Zimbabwe had over the years also impacted negatively on the ability of the children to fully enjoy their rights.
As a result of Zimbabwe's Education-for-All programme, the average child now had access to education for 11 years, he said. Primary school enrolment in Zimbabwe had by the year 2000 increased to 89 per cent, with a completion rate of 80 per cent. The country's literacy rate had also now risen to 87 per cent.
The Land Reform Programme currently under way sought to assure the future of the nation, especially that of its children, as it now made them owners of their land and masters of their destiny. It would ensure that agriculture would no longer be just a means of subsistence but a major source of wealth as it stimulated industrial development and thus act as an important factor in poverty alleviation, which was indispensable for the creation of a world fit for children.
For Zimbabwe, and indeed the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, the fight against HIV/AIDS, a major child killer, was bound to be a protracted battle, he said. The number of children orphaned by AIDS -- currently estimated at 600,000 -- was expected to rise by the year 2005 to nearly a million or nearly 15 per cent of all the children in Zimbabwe. Infant mortality had doubled and it was estimated that by 2005, AIDS would account for about 60 per cent of child deaths in the country.
MATHIEU KEREKOU, President of Benin, said child-related issues held a significant place in the State's concerns and in the social policy of his Government's programme of action. Several actions, based on institutional arrangements and increased State involvement, aimed at reducing infant, child and, maternal mortality; meeting the basic needs and promoting the role of the family in the well-being of children; exempting girls from school fees in rural areas, and creating reception areas for them in each district; and enhancing primary education for girls in both rural and urban areas. An initiative had been developed that entailed placing young girls under the guidance of old girls in the school environment.
Benin had worked patiently to combat female genital mutilation, sexual exploitation and the worst forms of child labour, he said. There had been encouraging results in that regard, but they were still insufficient and limited given the magnitude and complexity of the problems, especially in the least-developed countries. All those problems, which were associated with poverty, stemmed largely from, and were explained by, the crushing burden of debt, the iniquity of the international trade system and declining official development assistance (ODA).
It had been agreed that combating internal and cross-border trafficking of children and reducing poverty were major challenges, he said. Benin had been arbitrarily and cynically accused in the international press as a point of exchange in the vile phenomenon of child trafficking. Intellectual and moral honesty demanded that such events must be placed in their true context.
He said that in Africa one of the oldest and still current forms of mutual social assistance and communal spirit involved the taking of children from disadvantaged environments by friends or family members enjoying better living and working conditions. Unfortunately, Africa's rapidly worsening socio-economic conditions and the frenetic profiteering of unscrupulous individuals had distorted that formerly praiseworthy practice into the inhumane trafficking in children. The only positive conclusion to be drawn was that combating poverty remained the cornerstone of every effort to eradicate the foul trafficking of children.
FRADIQUE BANDEIRA MELO DE MENEZES, President of Sao Tome and Principe, said that the persistence of armed conflict and instability, especially in countries with fragile economies, and the serious humanitarian situation resulting from a great number of refugees, had resulted in obstacles to the successful execution of actions to improve the well-being of children. Sao Tome and Principe was delighted to see an end to the conflict in Angola and hoped that peace and the country's resources would bring opportunities for economic growth and development.
He said his country had been working in favour of children, but was aware that there was a long way to go in meeting the goals of the World Summit and other forums where child-related issues had been discussed, particularly the World Summit for Education for All, which had taken place in Jom Tiem in 1990. Modest improvements had been registered in the areas of infant and maternal mortality, combating malaria and immunization. The education system had developed literacy programmes to recover school dropouts who had become street children.
However, the impact of structural adjustment programmes had produced negative social effects, he said. Despite external financial assistance, it was still difficult to satisfy the basic needs of the population, 46 per cent of whom lived in poverty and 35 per cent in extreme poverty. The most vulnerable of them were women, especially those heading families. Women supported one third of the families in Sao Tome and Principe.
He said that issues of food security, public health, clean water, electricity, endemic diseases, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS, children's access to education and sustained schooling, illiteracy and all other aspects considered in the Plan of Action deserved the international community's strongest commitments, not only in words, but also in specific concerted actions to establish a global programme for the development of children. However, such actions could not succeed without taking into account the needs of families and the community.
KUMBA YALA, President of Guinea-Bissau, said that children and young people were the reason for States to strive for progress and social well-being. Guinea-Bissau's history was marked by tangible polices and measures directed towards the healthy and progressive development of children. It had ratified virtually all international legal instruments related to children, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and had taken all institutional and legislative measures to give effect to them.
Among its achievements was the coming into force of the legal decree making schooling obligatory and free at the primary level, which had increased school enrolment, he said. There had been improvements in various social indicators, accomplished with the valuable support of international organizations and development partners, which had had a significant impact on the lives of children in his country.
The continued high level of infant mortality and the prevalence of malaria, measles, malnutrition and other problems were of great concern to his country, he said. The domestic efforts made by governments were not sufficient. That was why concerted action was necessary, which went above and beyond ideas. The well-being of people, especially children, depended on a truly prosperous global village. He appealed to the international community to mobilize significant support, in terms of financial and infrastructure resources, so that countries like his could make further strides in improving the well-being of people, especially children and young people.
TEBURORO TITO, President of Kiribati, said that by vowing to lay the groundwork for the provision of a "world fit for children" the Assembly had set a challenging goal for its Member States, particularly given the serious implications of international terrorism, globalization, the HIV virus, environmental degradation and unpredictability of world financial markets. The current state of the planet was indeed less conducive to the survival and development of children.
In Kiribati, he said, the Government, in partnership with parents, island councils, churches and civil society groups, was doing the very best within its available resources to improve the well-being of children. Initiatives in that regard were an essential part of the country's quality of life improvement strategies. The Government was also promoting the importance of emphasizing family and cultural values in efforts to help young people. More resources were also being targeted at programmes in health, rural subsistence and education. Those efforts had been undertaken even in the shadow of unpredictable external markets.
To deal with those issues, he said, Kiribati had joined with other countries in Asia and the Pacific to develop a regional and international strategy to minimize the negative impact of volatile market forces on national programmes. Developing such a strategy would be a major step towards improving the situation of children in the region. Achieving that objective would also require more effective representation of small developing countries in policy-making.
In that regard, Kiribati fully supported the proposal made by the Pacific Island Forum to have the region be recognized as a distinct regional group under the Charter. That would allow Pacific and atoll States to contribute a unique strand to the global fabric at the heart of the United Nations.
DOMINADOR KAISER BAZAN, Vice President of Panama, said that since the 1990 Summit, Panama had made important headway in implementing the goals of the event. However, the fragile and uncertain world economy and the crushing weight of external debt threatened efforts to make further progress in those fields. What was worse was that those issues might also hamper efforts to sustain the initiatives already under way.
There was no doubt that access to technological advances, modern educational tools and communications equipment hindered the progress of youth, and put them at a particular disadvantage in the labour market. He added that regional cooperation would go a long way to ensure that specific needs of young people were identified and properly addressed. He said that reports before the session had shown that the world's recent economic boom had not cured all the evils that affected children. In fact, the rampant spread of globalization had severely affected access to services and markets.
He went on to say that the world was also still plagued by persistent conflict in many regions, which affected the ability to implement national programmes for children that addressed important issues such as child labour and sexual exploitation. Still, those serious issues demanded the unwavering attention of the wider international community.
He said that at the 2000 Tenth Ibero-American Summit held in Panama, regional leaders had participated in an exchange of views that had led to the elaboration of a number of tangible proposals aimed at bolstering the situation of youth in the region. The meeting had also provided an opportunity to develop mechanisms to identify, evaluate and monitor regional efforts in the areas of health nutrition, housing, agriculture and the environment. Protecting and promoting the rights of the world's children required renewed strategies and new instruments in order to cope with poverty, hunger and unemployment. Caring for children was urgent and vital. He appealed to the session to continue to work to strengthen regional and international social solidarity and belief in the common good. Only by doing that would the misery and despair facing many of the world's children be eliminated.
VALERIAN CRISTEA, Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Moldova, said that for the last 10 years, new problems had emerged in his country, such as drug abuse among children and children succumbing to illnesses linked to the Chernobyl disaster. The World Summit had provided important impetus for producing and implementing far-reaching policies to improve the well-being of children. However, at the end of the decade, all of the great expectations had not been fully achieved. Many of the objectives of the Summit, particularly in the areas of health care, education and nutrition, remained unfulfilled. The international community must find specific ways to resolve the problems facing children today.
His country had been able to achieve some progress, he said. A high standard for immunizations had been maintained and the system of secondary education was reaching new educational standards. There was also an increase in public awareness of the issues affecting children and young people, as well as the establishment of a parliament of children, parliament of youth and children's councils.
The economic upheavals accompanying its transition to a market economy was limiting his Government's ability to achieve many of the objectives set out at the Summit, he said. Expenditures in the State budget devoted to children had been reduced as a result. Restricted access of children to medical care had led to an increase in children with disabilities. The country was also running into such problems as trafficking in women and children. It was not in a position to solve all of its social problems alone. During this period, international cooperation for the protection of children was extremely important.
VALENTINA MATVIENKO, Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, said that the tragic events of 11 September had put new tasks before humankind, the main ones being to protect the world and to ensure the safety of its children against a terrorist threat. To counter these new challenges, wide-scale cooperation among all States was needed.
Solidarity in fighting terrorism presented a unique opportunity to build a new system of international security under United Nations auspices on a solid base of international law, she said. Less than 24 hours ago in the Russian Republic of Dagestan an appalling terrorist act had taken place, which had left 41 people dead, including 17 children, as a result of a bomb explosion. Such a manifestation of barbarity, brutality and violence could not be justified.
Notwithstanding the difficulties still faced by her country today, the interests of young citizens were constantly within the field of vision of the President and Government of the Russian Federation. For the first time in the modern history of Russia, this year's budget expenditures for education exceeded those for national defence. The leadership of the country was aware of the need to take consistent measures to mitigate to the maximum extent possible the impact of economic reforms on children and to ensure their rights to life and development in the new social and economic conditions.
She said new institutions to support children and all families with children had been created, which were intended to prevent social discomfort. She highly appreciated the United Nations efforts to provide for the rights of children and intended to continue to participate in international cooperation in that field.
All speakers had emphasized that children were a priceless treasure and that their well-being was at the centre of sustainable development. That was why it was not by accident that many delegates emphasized that such global forums as the recent International Conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey and the forthcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg must, in the end, serve the interests of children.
LIDIA SHULEVA, Deputy Prime Minister of Bulgaria, said that one of her country's main concerns was to make the right of every child to live in a family a reality. That priority was laid down in the political programme of the Government.
She said that the fight against poverty was still a serious concern of her Government, one to which it devoted a great deal of effort by way of financial assistance to low-income families. Another serious problem that Bulgaria was strongly committed to resolving was the isolation of disabled children. Legislative and practical measures aimed at facilitating the full integration of disabled children were on the social agenda of the Bulgarian Government.
The Government was determined to achieve the highest standards concerning the rights of the child in the country, she said. This comprised an important element of the Bulgarian Government's policy towards European and Euro-Atlantic integration. To that end, Bulgaria reiterated its readiness to be fully involved in consolidated action within the framework of the United Nations.
Presentations by Round-table Chairmen
During the special session, three round-table discussions were held on the overarching theme of "renewal of commitment and future action for children in the next decade."
NAMBAR ENKHBAYAR, Prime Minister of Mongolia and Co-Chair of round table 1, reported that attendance and participation in the discussions had been impressive. Over 50 heads of State and Government and other dignitaries had addressed the group. Two child delegates had opened the discussions, stressing for the world leaders and other participants that education was the key to making a world fit for children. It was particularly important to provide education for girls and indigenous children. Speakers stressed that education was a basic human right and one of the keys to eradicating poverty. The threat of HIV/AIDS had been mentioned again and again, with speakers citing efforts to educate and mobilize young people against the disease.
He said the participants had stressed that technology had emerged as a new priority in education, especially computer literacy and access to the Internet. The need to have access to new technologies would only grow during the next decade, but in many countries, basic educational necessities such as electrical outlets and even desks were still lacking. In that regard, it was also stressed that the lack of financial resources continued to hinder the development of quality education, as did the lack of equipment and trained personnel in many countries. The youth delegates had also spoken about the importance of food security and nutrition. The round table had been addressed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP).
TARJA HALONEN, President of Finland and Co-Chair of round table 2 said child participants had highlighted the importance of enhancing true inter-generational dialogue during the round-table discussions. The young delegates had highlighted the impact of war on their lives and stressed, among other things, that adults should pay particular attention to the special needs of refugees, orphans, ethnic minorities and disabled children. Most of the child participants had said their big challenge was what to do when they returned to their homelands.
The child delegates, she said, had stressed that the rights, health and well-being of the world's children was not negotiable and that every effort should be made to ensure the participation of children in making decisions that affected them. Equality had been a major theme during the discussions. Speakers had noted that every child must have an equal opportunity to grow and develop, a process that began with the provision of access to medical care and education. Speakers also stressed the urgent need for the provision of resources for the betterment of children. The round table had been addressed by the Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the Deputy Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), among others.
LEVY MWANAWASA, President of Zambia and Co-Chair of round table 3, also began his report with a message from the child delegates who had participated in the discussions. Their message to the Assembly urged cooperation for a better future for all the world's children, as well as trust that children's participation in the decision-making process would lead to the creation of better strategies on their behalf. The question of resources had emerged as the main theme. Resources were central to achieving the goals of the session, and to that end there had been urgent calls for the wider international community to meet the United Nations prescribed ODA target of 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).
He said the youth delegates had stressed that words should be followed with concrete actions. There was a critical need to identify ways to incorporate the tenets of the Convention on the Rights of the Child into national legislation. There had also been a call for good governance and investment in young people, as well as an urgent call for the opening of markets and ensuring fair trade systems. Speakers had continually stressed that education remained critically important to children's development as happy and productive members of society. Many had said that children should learn their rights, but should also learn to respect diversity and cultural differences of others. There were also a number of comments about corporal punishment in schools, with some noting that practice was acceptable in their countries.
IRENE ASHIRA ASSIH, Minister for Social Affairs, Advancement of Women and Childhood Protection of Togo, said that the special session was of particular importance to her country. More than a decade after the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the holding of the World Summit, significant progress had been made for the advancement of children's rights. At the same time, challenges like HIV/AIDS, child labour, trafficking in children and poverty eradication remained. The session must allow for the identification of guidelines for increased cooperation among peoples.
Togo had taken numerous actions to improve the living conditions of its children, she said. Despite the difficulties it was facing, the Government had taken specific measures to ensure the survival, development and protection of children. It was engaged in the establishment of a specific department entrusted with the protection of children and a Children's Parliament had been set up, all of which was being conducted with the participation of children themselves and national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
MABEL FATI HOUENOUWAWA, President of the Togo Children's Parliament, said that despite the efforts of her country, children continued to be victims of child labour, trafficking in children and HIV/AIDS, among other things. Negatively affecting children and requiring immediate attention were economic sanctions imposed on countries, including hers. The victims of such sanctions were children, particularly the children of the poor. She hoped that in a few years, there would be less unhappy children on the planet.
Resumption of Statements
ACHMAD SUJUDI, Minister for Health of Indonesia, said that over the past decade, his Government had sought to sharpen the targets of its development plans and programmes for realizing its urgent goals, particularly in the areas of promoting health, nutrition, education and overall well-being of children, women and families. Currently, a policy document on child protection law was being deliberated by the Parliament, which considered it one of the top priorities on its agenda.
As Indonesia was a developing country, he said, poverty was still a dominant factor hampering efforts to improve the well-being of children. While the Government's strategy to eradicate poverty had been successful over the past two decades, those figures had been reversed in the wake of the Asian financial crisis beginning in 1997. Now, more than 25 per cent of the population was categorized as poor. As a result, they spent a greater percentage of their income on food, thus reducing their available resources for other necessities, including those of health and education.
The Government was now implementing various programmes under the Social Safety Net programme, he said. The programme covered food security, education, health, social welfare and income-generating programmes that were quickly and directly provided to recipients, such as children, women, families, schools and health centres. Also, Indonesia had successfully reached a number of goals, including its 1990 goal of universal child immunization and, in 1999, safe and clean water had been provided to 67 per cent of all households in urban areas, together with sanitation standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO).
VILIJA BLINKEVIČIŪTÉ, Minister for Social Security and Labour of Lithuania, said that the basic principles associated with children's rights established in the Convention on the Rights of the Child had become a part of the national policy of Lithuania. Having restored independence in a democratic way, Lithuanian society faced the inevitable economic and social changes. The decade had been marked by a series of reforms which had dealt with the country's economy, administrative government, health care, education, and social security, among others.
She said although the number of people infected with HIV/AIDS in Lithuania was not high, the country was worried that the increasing rate of drug addiction among teenagers and youth would increase the risk of the spread of the epidemic. Violence against children and their commercial sexual exploitation was among the gravest violations of children's rights, she added.
That phenomenon was unacceptable and called for the efforts of both national and international organizations to protect children, she said, noting that the National Programme against the Commercial and Sexual Exploitation of Children had been adopted in 2000. Lithuania was prepared to take part and to join international initiatives aimed at looking for a better future for children.
JOHN DENHAM, Minister for Children and Young People of the United Kingdom, expressed concern that the proposed 2010 interim targets contained in the outcome document were not sufficiently ambitious to reach the Millennium Development Goals. States must aim to reduce infant and under-five mortality by more than one third by 2010 if they were to succeed in reducing it by two thirds by 2015; and reduce maternal mortality by more than one third by 2010 in order to succeed in reducing it by three quarters by 2015.
Citing his country's Chancellor of the Exchequer, he said a new development compact was needed where no country genuinely committed to good governance, poverty reduction and economic development should be denied the chance to achieve the 2015 goals through lack of resources.
He said countries had been far too slow in advancing education goals. The United Kingdom proposed that the richest countries back the new World Bank initiative with the funds it now needed to fast-track the commitment to meeting the goal of primary education for all by 2015.
Recognizing that half the child deaths resulted from avoidable diseases, he said the British Government proposed to fast-track health support for building universal and equitable health care systems, in a similar manner to the fast-tracking investment in education. Because of the need to build a virtuous circle of debt relief, poverty reduction and sustainable development for the long term, he added, the United Kingdom also proposed to step up commitments to make the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Debt Initiative a success.
ATSUKO TOYAMA, Minister for Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan, said in both developed and developing countries, adults had a moral duty and political responsibility to do their best for children. Developed countries especially had a significant role to play since considerable resources were needed for that endeavour. Her country had made every effort to promote children's well-being, especially in the four priority areas of education, protection against abuse, exploitation and violence, health and HIV/AIDS.
She said that access to education was the right of all children. It was especially important to ensure equal access to education for girls. Education had been the cornerstone of Japan's nation-building and post-war reconstruction. That experience could be a model for similar efforts in other parts of the world. Her country would promote cooperation on education in the "Japanese spirit", which meant through earnest good will, without prejudice or dogmatism, making the best use of educators while considering the cultural and historical backgrounds of the countries concerned. Uninterrupted education should be provided even in conflict-ridden areas.
Last December, her Government, together with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and two NGOs had hosted the Second World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children. Through the Yokohama Global Committee of 2001, the international community had demonstrated its strong determination to take further action to eliminate the commercial sexual exploitation of children. That commitment should be put into action. Through legislation, her Government had been tackling child abuse and child prostitution, which had become serious social problems in recent years. In addition, Japan had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and today, signed two Optional Protocols to that Convention.
In the area of health, she highlighted the 2000 "Okinawa Infectious Disease Initiative", by which Japan allocated up to $3 billion over five years to support action against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria in developing countries. Japan continued to play a leading role as Vice-Chair of the Board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, to which it had pledged $200 million. Since 1993, Japan had contributed more than $230 million to activities aimed at eradicating polio, in cooperation with UNICEF. Last year, the Western Pacific area has been declared polio-free. A world where children could freely develop their potential must be created.
TALAL MUBARAK ALAYAAR, Minister for Social Affairs and Labour and Minister for Electricity and Water of Kuwait, said children were the real wealth of nations. As the international community gathered to discuss the health and well-being of children and set a course for their future, it was important to recognize the impact of poverty, exploitation and armed conflict on their daily lives. National and international efforts should be strengthened to ensure that children began their lives in the best conditions possible so that they could achieve their full potential. Kuwait believed that families and households should be the central focus of all initiatives.
He said the country had undertaken a number of measures to ensure the provision of basic services, including the establishment of a High Committee of Children's Affairs to coordinate efforts in that regard. The Government had also taken steps to address the situation of children with special needs, including orphans, victims of war and the disabled. A great number of households enjoyed financial assistance provided by the State. Women were also provided maternity leave and social security.
Finally, he said Kuwait could not ignore the tragic conditions of children living under the oppressive yoke of foreign occupation, chiefly Palestinian children. Aggressive actions by armed Israeli forces in the occupied Palestinian territories claimed many children among its victims. He called on the Assembly to condemn the practices of Israeli aggression and called on Israel to accept its international responsibility and end the violence immediately. He also implored the Assembly not to lose sight of the situation regarding Kuwaiti prisoners being held in Iraq.
NETUMBO NANDI-NDAITWAH, Minister of Women's Affairs and Child Welfare of Namibia, said that her country had been one of the first countries to ratify the landmark Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990 and it had also ratified the two Optional Protocols to the Convention. The National Plan of Action, adopted in 1991, had benefited many vulnerable and disadvantaged children in Namibia. It not only identified and defined national goals with accompanying performance targets that would address the goals of the Summit, but also established the national implementation capacity and delivery mechanisms and effective structures for meeting those goals.
In the area of health, the Government had adopted a preventive primary health care approach aimed at ensuring that all Namibians had equal access to basic health care. The approach addressed major health problems, including vaccinations, preventable diseases and safe motherhood. As a result, incidences of diarrhoea in children under five had declined significantly between 1992 and 2000. Neonatal tetanus had been eliminated and, since 1995, no wild polio virus had been reported.
Also, she continued, implementation of a policy on access to safe water and sanitation had resulted in 98 per cent of the urban population and 66 per cent of the rural population having access to safe drinking water. Primary education was free and compulsory in Namibia and the current enrolment rate was at 95 per cent, with no disparities between boys and girls.
She said that the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS had increased the number of children living in difficult circumstances. The Government was developing national guidelines for the care and protection of orphans. Also, it had established a national AIDS control programme.
JEANNE EBAMA BOBOTO, Minister for Social Affairs of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said that while some improvements in the situation of children living in the developing world could be reported, there was a need to draw attention to urban areas where the humanitarian conditions had become alarming. Children living in such areas were often orphans or refugees, or had been forced to leave their homes and live on the street. It was up to the world leaders gathered at the session to strengthen international commitments to put all children, both rural and urban, at the forefront.
Children were indeed at the very centre of the Congolese Government's concerns, she said. The dedication to their cause had resulted in the creation of legal structures aimed at ensuring for their protection. National initiatives addressed issues related to violence, poverty, HIV/AIDS and war. The situation for children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was particularly disturbing, as malnutrition rates were very high and poverty persisted at almost every level. The increasing number of AIDS orphans also disturbed her.
Most troubling was a phenomenon that flouted international norms -- the recruitment of children as armed soldiers, she said. In that regard, the Democratic Republic of the Congo welcomed the elaboration of the Rome Statute and the creation of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Those important instruments had specific structures within them that addressed the protection of children. To strengthen its child protection regime, the Democratic Republic of the Congo had acceded to all international instruments aimed at protecting the rights of children and adolescents.
She went on to say the President had implemented national plans for the disarmament, demobilization and re-integration of child soldiers. She stressed that her country no longer recruited child solders, but outside elements consistently kidnapped or recruited children and turned them against their homeland. To that end, the Democratic Republic of the Congo was strengthening its juridical arsenal towards enhancing protection of children.
Despite the obstacles, she said, the well-being of children would remain a central concern of the Government. Considerable efforts were being made to bring combatants to the negotiating table to form a lasting peace. She called on the international community to support recent peace agreements, as that would lay the ground for returning peace to the region, and making it conducive for nurturing happy, healthy and safe children.
SAMIA AHMED MOHAMED, Minister for Social Welfare and Development of the Sudan, said the world had witnessed how the rights of innocent children in the Palestinian territories had been trodden upon and pulverized in the most horrendous manner. International law and the resolutions of the Security Council must be upheld to protect the lives of those children.
She said that States, guided by the Plan of Action and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, had made some progress, but much had remained to be done. The Secretary-General's report contained many references to those goals that had not yet been achieved, especially narrowing the wide disparities between different regions. In the developing countries, especially those in sub-Saharan Africa, no progress had been made in the field of immunization and the struggle to eliminate malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. In some cases, the situation had become worse and could deteriorate even further unless steps were taken.
Many of the developed countries had not fulfilled their internationally agreed commitments with regard to increasing ODA, she said. Serious action was also needed to cancel the debts of developing countries, especially the least developed countries, and to alleviate the effects of structural adjustment plans.
She said her country had developed a national programme to eliminate endemic diseases and those caused by malnutrition. It had espoused child vaccinations and expanded education programmes to cover nomads and internally displaced persons as well as to eliminate the disparity between girls' and boys' education.
Government efforts to achieve the World Summit goals had been hindered by the persistence of the war forced on the Sudan by terrorist rebel movements, she said. The international community must bring pressure to bear on the recalcitrant rebels in order to alleviate the situation of women and children in the outlying areas. Yesterday, Sudan had signed the Optional Protocol on Children in Armed Conflict. Concerted action by the international community was essential to end the exploitation of child soldiers by Sudanese rebel groups, who used them as human shields.
ANA DIAS LOURENCO, Minister for Planning of Angola, said the special session provided the opportunity to examine more closely the impact of protracted conflicts on the health and well-being of children, as well as to the provision of services aimed at their protection. There was no question that wars undermined international peace and security. And that was nowhere more true than in Africa, where internal and border conflicts persistently hampered efforts to ensure a better quality of life for the people and, particularly, the children there.
She said the Angolan conflict that had erupted following the 1992 elections had exacerbated the already seriously debilitating circumstances in the country. Currently, nearly 4 million people had been displaced; some 50,000 children had been orphaned; and hundreds of thousands of disabled persons of all ages were now dependent on international and internal humanitarian assistance. The situation in Angola was particularly urgent because recent statistics had shown that children made up over 50 per cent of the population.
Those same statistics had revealed sad figures on delayed growth and low birth weight which confirmed that poor nutrition was a major problem for the children of Angola. They also showed that Angola's under-five infant mortality rate stood at 250 deaths per 1000 children, and that approximately 57 per cent of school-age children were outside the education system. She also noted with deep concern the numbers of children separated from their families in urban centres and exposed to risks ranging from early pregnancy to sexual exploitation.
With all those challenges in mind, she said her Government was committed to make things better. It had created the National Institute for Children to monitor implementation of the agreements reached at the 1990 World Summit. A number of other initiatives aimed at securing the survival and development of children included a programme aimed at searching for and re-uniting children with their families, convening a national conference on child labour, promoting literacy and increasing budgetary allocations to the social sector.
SHIRLEY Y. GBUJAMA, Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children's Affairs of Sierra Leone, said that the challenges identified in the World Declaration on the Survival, Protection and Development of Children, especially for Africa, remained as daunting as they had been some 11 years ago. The situation of children is still intolerable.
The rebel war in Sierra Leone had been the main inhibiting factor in the country's efforts to meet its targets, she said. That notwithstanding, Sierra Leone and other developing countries would have achieved much more for their children in the past decade had the international community fulfilled its commitment to assist them in reducing poverty. There was a direct link between poverty reduction and the protection of the rights and welfare of the child. Failure to meet the targets of poverty reduction programmes was reflected, and would always be reflected, in the status of children.
She said the answer to improving the health, basic education and nutritional needs of children was the mobilization of new and additional resources at all levels, but especially at the international level. It was not enough to just listen to the children, to give them a voice in this special session or to promise them participation in all matters pertaining to their welfare. In the final analysis, what mattered most was what was actually done for them.
AITKUL SAMAKOVA, Minister, Chairperson of the National Commission on Family and Women's Affairs of Kazakhstan, said that the international community needed to increase its efforts towards the economic reconstruction of her country. While Kazakhstan was a young State, during its 10 years of independence it had carried out various reforms. The European Union and the United States had recognized Kazakhstan as a country with a market economy.
The Government had acceded to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and had ratified the two Optional Protocols, she said. Before Parliament today was a draft law on the rights of the child. Also, a special law was adopted on children's villages and youth houses intended to improve the situation of orphans. Furthermore, a bill was being drawn up on State youth policies. As a result, the Government had an adequate legislative basis for protecting the rights of children.
Continuing, she said that the country had a far-reaching network of medical institutions. With support of the Asian Development Bank, it was tackling anemia and illnesses related to iodine deficiencies. Kazakhstan had compulsory and free secondary education for all. Children had the opportunity to grow up in a secure and multi-ethnic society. The Government planned to draw up a national plan of action to improve the lives of children, which would be based on the outcome document of the special session.
In terms of the outcome document, she said that Kazakhstan had proposed that public education include specific programmes to reduce violence as well as gender programmes. Kazakhstan had adopted its own projects on gender education and reducing violence. The document mapped out what needed to be done to improve the situation of children over the next 10 years.
GIRLYN MIGUEL, Minister of Social Development, Cooperatives, Family, Gender and Ecclesiastical Affairs of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines said that for children to inhabit a world fit for them, the adults must provide them with the basic necessities, including nutrition, health and education. On the international level, it was necessary to create sound practical laws and institutions to uphold the rights of the child. At the domestic level, it was necessary to re-examine the laws, social structures and attitudes to ensure a framework for the children not just to exist, but to thrive and excel.
She went on to point out the "universal shame" brought about by the horrifying statistics of children at war, and expressed hope that they would cause a renewed conviction for action to ensure survival of children. The three United Nations conferences this year had all had a direct and fundamental bearing on the welfare of children. Now nearing its conclusion, the special session on children would define what was necessary to achieve a world fit for children.
Turning to her country's national experience in caring and providing for its children, she said that notwithstanding the limited resources, the Government was ensuring children's access to health care through a system of rural health clinics. It was also hoping to make the educational system free to all children within the next decade. The country was also trying to attract foreign investment that, in conjunction with local industry and agriculture, would provide employment opportunities for children. In order to achieve its goals, the Government needed help. It was essential for the country to be part of the global economy. The prosperous countries of the world should live up to their commitments to provide help to the poorer countries of the world.
"Let those of us who use our children to wage war find it in our hearts to stop", she said. "Let those of us who abuse our children -- whether we are parents, clergy, or strangers -- stop. Let us hear the voices of our children … and ensure that we see the future clearly and we take urgent steps to protect our world and our children from future desecration."
ABDUL RAHIM KARIMI, Minister of Justice of Afghanistan, said that the armed conflicts of the past 23 years had had a drastic impact on civilian society, especially the Afghan children. Millions were in dire need of medical treatment, and 100,000 of them were engaged in difficult labour with hazardous working conditions. While the scope of the suffering of the Afghan children was exceptional, he recognized the challenges afflicting children worldwide.
He said the Interim Administration was committed to deploying all possible efforts to protect and promote children around the globe. Alone, however, his country could not overcome the daunting challenges facing its children without international assistance. At the same time, only through the liberation of Afghanistan from the domination of terrorists and fundamentalists was the Afghan child now ready to enrol in school. Under the former regime, children had been trained to serve terrorism and become enemies of their own country. He expressed his deepest gratitude to those children and families who had sent tokens of their support to the children of Afghanistan.
He said that protecting the rights of children was a fundamental responsibility of the human community. In Afghanistan, there existed a generation of children who had been raised in an atmosphere of armed conflict, deprived of education, recreation and medical care. By witnessing the death of their loves ones and the loss of their material and immaterial assets, children had become victims of various psychological illnesses. Moreover, they had been forced to accept jobs requiring difficult labour, and in some cases, to discharge military tasks in order to feed themselves. Remedying those issues would not be easy.
Since the collapse of the terrorist and anti-national Taliban regime, many useful tasks had been accomplished, he said. Among them, many schools had opened in Kabul and other provinces, and more than 2 million children were attending school. The number of female students had reached 673,000. Orphan centres had also reopened in Kabul and other provinces, accommodating many orphans in dire need. In Kabul city alone, 1,300 orphans were registered in orphan homes, including 120 girls. Despite such progress, however, many other orphans throughout the country remained unregistered. The Interim Administration had also taken steps to prevent children's employment in the military sector and decrease their participation in hard labour.
GABRIEL ERNESTO RIVEROS DUENAS, Minister of Health of Colombia, said that tomorrow was too late for the children of the world. In the developing countries, the majority of children were poor and the majority of the poor were children. In addition to the problems shared by many countries, Colombia also suffered from the effects of armed conflict -- linked to the problem of illicit drugs -- which impacted negatively on the lives of its children. The conflict had also affected social spending, which also had an impact on the lives of children. Those effects had been lessened a bit since social spending in the areas of health, education and nutrition was protected by law. Social spending constituted roughly 30 per cent of the national budget, which was about twice as much as it had been 10 years ago.
The Government had designed and implemented reform measures so that the economy could resume stable growth, he said. It had also set up mechanisms to target social spending. In the next 10 years, the international community must make the world one that would be in the reach of children. The challenge as adults was to ensure that children were healthier and better educated, so they would achieve better results than today's adults.
The obligation of adults was to build a more loving and humane Colombia, he said. Asserting the rights of children also meant carrying out monitoring and evaluation to ascertain the effectiveness of measures and mechanisms.
LUIS ALFONSO DAVILA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Venezuela, said his country had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in September 1990 and had taken on the commitment to implement its provisions. It had established a framework law on children and adolescents, as well as a national protection system with a network extending throughout the country's 24 states and 334 towns. As a participatory democracy, Venezuela had consulted children and incorporated their views.
He said that investment devoted to children had risen from 2 per cent of the GDP three years ago to 7 per cent today. In the last three years, 1.4 million children who had been excluded from or dropped out of school had all been incorporated in the education system.
The Government had created the Women's Bank to stimulate women's associations and grant credit to unemployed women as well as the Sovereign Bank of the People, he said. Through the programme Friends of Children, the Government had set up 18 hospitals that had helped to increase health care, resulting in a decline in infant mortality due to lung failure. Today, the State guaranteed that the entire population would have vaccinations against infectious diseases, many of which had already been eradicated.
He said that all those intentions, plans and achievements had recently been threatened when a small elitist group of political pirates abducted the President, Hugo Chavez, decreed the dissolution of the legislature and dismissed popularly elected officials. Such situations were a cause for dismay, but the people, conscious of their political culture and historical responsibility, had taken to the streets unarmed and restored the President to the office granted to him in a free and democratic fashion.
Expressing concern about declining assistance to developing countries, he said that during the Monterrey Conference on Financing for Development, the President had proposed the establishment of an international humanitarian fund that would benefit children in developing countries. It would be funded by a percentage of external debt repayments and a percentage of military expenditure. That proposal should be implemented as a way of saying "yes" to children.
MUSULENG COOPER, Minister for Gender and Development of Liberia, said that if they did not provide an environment for children to achieve their fullest potential, Liberia's leaders would be negligent in their duties and obligations. The Liberian Government had ratified and promoted the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It had achieved full immunization, thus nearing the goal of total eradication of polio in Liberia. It had also established the Ministry of Gender and Development, thereby setting the stage for full implementation of the National Program of Action for Children 2001-2015.
He said Government and national leaders were also engaged in implementing capacity-building programmes for war-affected children, which included advocacy and treatment of HIV/AIDS. The Global Movement in Liberia urgently called for serious, meaningful action, especially since the nation had some of the lowest indicators of health and well-being, with increasingly high levels of illiteracy, infant mortality and malnutrition. Its youths did not have access to basic life needs, such as safe drinking water and sanitation. They also lacked access to basic primary education in the rural areas, especially those affected by war and recurrent dissident attacks.
Overall, he continued, the situation of the Liberian child was becoming increasingly compromised, due to the Government's inability to focus attention on programmes aimed at improving children's lives. Obstacles to further progress included the ongoing dissident activities in western and north-western Liberia, which continued to propel the forced displacement of women and children, with children remaining the largest percentage of the displaced populations. There was also the lack of steady support to the national development agenda, which was preventing improvements in the health and education segments.
Also, the country's high indebtedness, especially its inability to repay old debts and loans, had led to increased poverty among the general population, she said. Poverty, especially for the rural poor, owing largely to the continued disruption of agricultural activities, was making it impossible for families to adequately feed their children. The continued sanctions and the insensitive attitude of some States to Liberia's humanitarian plight were victimizing innocent children. Liberia, he said, "now stands naked before you, appealing to the deep recesses of your individual and collective conscious; pleading that the United Nations lifts its sanctions", for those only increased the suffering of "our war-weary people and children".
PHETSILE DLAMINI, Minister of Health and Social Welfare of Swaziland, said that while his country had not achieved the goal of free primary education, an effort had been made for education to be more accessible and affordable by providing free textbooks to all primary school children. The Government, together with NGOs, had facilitated some bursary funding to assist needy children. However, the escalating numbers of needy children, including orphans whose needs were not yet fully met, had dwarfed that effort. The Government and other partners were searching for more innovative ways to improve access to education, including computer literacy.
The biggest challenge, he said, was the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The Kingdom had introduced a school health programme, integrated the information on HIV/AIDS into the school curriculum, as well as encouraged the formation of health clubs in all schools to promote peer education. Also, a "Child to Child" learning strategy had been introduced in schools through which children were taught about the Convention on the Rights of the Child, prevention and treatment of childhood illnesses and life skills for self-protection from abuse and exploitation.
As a drive to further improve the health of the nation, including children, the Government now fully subsidized primary health care in all clinics, he said. Also, in partnership with other agencies, the Government was working tirelessly to combat the HIV/AIDS pandemic. In improving the juvenile justice system, a juvenile court was now in place. Further training of officers in the law-enforcement agencies had had a positive effect in handling cases that involved children. Community Protection Committees were currently being established so as to protect children even at the grass-roots level.
CHAN SOO SEN, Minister of State for the Prime Minister's Office and the Minister of Community, Development and Sports of Singapore said Singapore was a small urban city-State of 4 million people -- its survival lay in the resilience and capability of its people. Singapore was strongly committed to the well-being of children, as witnessed primarily by its accession to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The rights of children were well protected in Singapore, because it had good laws and strong families, he said. A comprehensive health care system and good education prepared children for life. He went on to elaborate on those principles, noting, among other things, that Singapore's solid legislative framework protected the fundamental rights of children. The country's Employment Act prohibited employment of children below the age of 12 and the Children and Young Persons Act protected children from abuse, neglect and abandonment.
A good, strong family was the best guarantee of children's rights, he said. Families in difficulties needed support, and in that regard, Singapore had set up Family Service Centres so the families could get special help in their neighborhoods. Those centres were funded by the Government and a few even handled specialized concerns. One centre had a creative outreach programme where social workers hung out with kids in order to provide guidance in a more informal setting.
He went on to say that good health was fundamental for a child's well-being. Singapore was ranked among the world's lowest for infant mortality and under-five mortality. Life expectancy was 78 years. Singapore's child health care programme had been so successful that the two major health problems for youth were not diseases but obesity and myopia. To get the youth in shape, schools put their overweight students through a "trim and fit" programme which offered exercise and counselling on healthy lifestyles. Along with providing solid educational programmes, Singapore extended every effort to maximize every child's potential and would continue to do more.
RUBY PARDIWALLA, Director of the National Council for Children of Seychelles, said that slightly more than a decade after the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, it was to humanity's credit that much had been achieved. Yet achievements in some areas also highlighted the tremendous amount that still remained to be accomplished in other crucial areas. It was sad to note that much of the dream had gone astray. Why was the international community still battling with exploitation, violence, injustice and the denial of basic rights towards children in most parts of the world?
The Convention had enjoyed widespread and global acceptance by governments, organizations and individuals at all levels, she said. Why then had that vision remained unfulfilled? she asked. It would appear that somewhere, somehow, the links between goals and implementation, beliefs and practices had been slashed, exposing a deep gash. The rights and responsibilities could not be truly understood without first understanding the values on which they were based. A simple awareness and acceptance of the worth and dignity of each individual child would help countries focus on what needed to be done to respect the Convention.
NADINE ALATOA, Secretary-General of the Council of Ministers of Vanuatu, said that the emerging challenges to the survival, protection and development of her country's children lay in five areas: rapid population growth; urban squatter settlement; urban food security; equitable access to education; and vulnerability of youth.
She said that the census of 1999 had recorded a population of 200,000. At 3 per cent, Vanuatu's population growth rate was very high compared to those of others in the region. The population was very young, with more than 50 per cent being between the ages of 15 and 25. The urban concentration had more or less doubled in the last decade. Urban drift had also contributed to urban squatter settlement. Living standards had changed due to high expectations of employment opportunities and changes in the cost of urban living.
Food security became a problematic issue where there was changing demand for cash crops and imported processed food items, she said. The changing patterns in food consumption and lifestyle had also brought about an increase in lifestyle diseases. The Government recognized the changes in disease patterns and, last year, it had made a public declaration urging public and private institutions, as well as individual households, to promote the consumption of local island food.
VIRGINIA GILLUM DE QUIROGA, First Lady of Bolivia, said that during the last decade, Bolivia had been true to its commitments with the United Nations and with its children and had seen its infant and maternal mortality rates drop significantly. In the last few years, it had begun to make the transformation from being a country focused on survival to being a country that promoted the rights and protection of the child. It was beginning to focus on the quality of life that children would have after their survival was ensured.
The arrival of free health insurance had not only saved the lives of many children under five, but had also ensured that their mothers would die in fewer numbers, she said. The immunization programmes financed by the Government had completely eradicated polio and covered 90 per cent of other common diseases.
Bolivia was proud, she said, of the legislative advances made with regard to children. In 1999, the Code of Conduct for Children and Adolescents, which strictly governed their rights, was signed into law. Just recently, a supreme decree was signed giving all newborns in Bolivia the right to receive a free birth certificate. This week, she was awaiting approval of several new bills that would allow international adoptions to take place, help prevent child abuse and put a stop to the trafficking of children.
Her country would benefit over the next 15 years with $1.6 billion in debt relief through the HIPC initiative, she said. Civil society would have an active role in determining where the funds went and overseeing the social programmes implemented with them.
It would be unjust to speak of the advances without mentioning the many areas in which the country still needed to improve, she added. Bolivia's insurance programmes were not being utilized as they should be, there were not enough schools nor enough teachers, and often the laws did not protect the people who needed them the most.
ELLEN MARGRETHE LOJ (Denmark) said the children had declared that they wanted to see implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. "They are impatient and for good reason." An enormous gap existed between the many good intentions and the lives that millions of children were forced to live in poverty and neglect. Now, good intentions and fine words must be translated into concrete action. Poverty was the root cause of most infringements of the rights of children, and progress had been slow. Also, millions of children died from preventable diseases, and 100 million did not go to school.
She said children had the right to demand better. They had the right to development and the right to be protected from discrimination, economic exploitation, abuse and violence. They also had the right to participate and be heard in all matters that affected them. Rights also included sexual and reproductive rights. Adolescents were sexually active all over the world. "We can deny it, we can silence it, but it is a fact. And with silence we seal the destiny of yet more millions of adolescents as they fall victim to HIV/AIDS, early and unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions and sexually transmitted diseases."
That trend would only be reduced if adults accepted the rights and needs of adolescents, she said. Children's future lay with leadership at all levels and in the choices leaders made, she said. Hopefully, the special session was the beginning of a global movement that put children first in all matters, not just in words, but also in deeds. Children and adolescents of the world would judge their leaders and hold them accountable for their efforts to protect and promote their rights and improve their lives. To the children and adolescents, she said, "please hold us to our commitment and claim your rights".
TUILOMA NERONI SLADE (Samoa) said children's rights and freedoms were best nurtured in the context of the country's culture and traditions. Samoa had a population of less than 200,000, with more than half below the age of 20. Every person had access to basic health services, adequate and safe water supplies and sanitation. Progressive improvements were being introduced as the country sought to overcome its resource constraints. Major emphasis had also been placed on early childhood and special education. Of the total population, approximately 73 per cent of females, and 69 per cent of males had received formal education. Somoa's literacy rate was estimated at around 97 per cent.
He said that national efforts were supplemented by regional initiatives undertaken by the Pacific Islands Forum. The Ministers of Health understood that the links between health and environment and the impacts on vulnerable groups, especially children, raised real and serious concerns. Those issues should be addressed. Small island communities were exposed to significant environmental degradations, sometimes severe, exacerbated through pressure of urbanization and the consequences of climate change and natural disasters.
Concerning HIV/AIDS, Samoa had not been spared, he said. The consequences for a small country like his could be catastrophic. So, a national strategy was in place, and Samoa would continue to seek support and technical assistance as required.
AHMED ABDI HASHI (Somalia) said that yesterday he had signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child. His Government would ratify it soon and would sign its two Optional Protocols in due course.
He said the children of Palestine and Somalia deserved better. The Israeli occupation forces denied the Palestinian child nearly all the rights enshrined in the Convention. They killed Palestinian children, destroyed their homes and shattered their right to a peaceful environment with impunity.
In Somalia, child morbidity and mortality was extremely high, and infant mortality was among the highest in the world, he said. Curable infectious diseases like tuberculosis caused more than half of all child deaths. It was estimated that only 10 per cent of Somali children had all the recommended vaccinations in the 12 months of life and maternal mortality was among the world's highest. Only 15 per cent of Somali children slept under a net, and only 28 per cent of the population had access to safe water, not to mention that access to sanitary disposal was extremely limited. Cholera was well above the 5 per cent threshold and funds for combating HIV/AIDS were insignificant.
He said that a youth who was five years old at the outbreak of Somalia's civil war had no access to structured, formal education. Uneducated and unable to secure a decent livelihood, that 17-year-old youth was today a child soldier at the mercy of notorious warlords. Such child soldiers were taught to kill and abduct aid workers for ransom or to scare the international community from engaging with Somalia.
Noting that the continuous flood of arms and landmines into Somalia encouraged the child soldier and child militia culture, he emphasized the urgent need for all States, particularly neighbouring countries, to respect the Security Council arms embargo on Somalia. Strict compliance with Council resolutions regarding that issue would enhance the chances for the peaceful environment necessary for the full development of the great potential of Somalia's children.
FARID ABBOUD (Lebanon) said his country was concerned now more than ever with the objectives of the World Summit. Various initiatives had been undertaken at the legislative level, foremost of which was ratifying the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Among other things, Lebanon also adhered to the ILO Convention banning child labour. In 1994, the Supreme Council for Childhood had been established. It drew up the national framework for guaranteeing the rights of the child.
In the field of public health, he continued, the Government had reduced under-five mortality by one third by providing treatment and combating polio in conjunction with the WHO and UNICEF. It had also reduced malnutrition. The Parliament had adopted a law on free and compulsory education at the primary level. Today, Lebanon had 98 per cent school enrolment with no gender disparities. A law had also been adopted for the protection and rehabilitation of children involved with drugs, tobacco and alcohol.
Exacerbating the situation of children were the harsh conditions imposed on society, he said. The occupation and bombing of southern Lebanon had eroded infrastructures, which impacted negatively on the situation of children. Israeli occupation had left behind more than 400,000 landmines, and clearing them had proved difficult, as Israel did not leave behind detailed maps on their location. Israeli occupation had also paralysed education institutions for Palestinian children.
That pattern of aggressive interaction with civilians, he continued, was the main reason for the exacerbation of violence in Palestine and not the educational curricula as asserted by some. Oppression was one of the most dangerous threats to children and to childhood. The continuation of the embargo on Iraq had destroyed its social infrastructures and it was incumbent to review ways of dealing with that situation.
JEREMIAH MANELE (Solomon Islands) said that the decrease in infant mortality rates in his country reflected major improvements during the past decade. At the same time, malnutrition in children under five was an increasing concern. Drug and substance abuse among adolescents was also an emerging issue. Education was not yet universal or compulsory. The current policy was to provide greater opportunity for access at all levels of education and to increase the provision of education services.
The recent ethnic unrest and its devastating impact had produced a major setback to all sectoral programmes. It had caused population displacement as well as disruption of coordination and administrative systems. School enrolment, which had increased progressively, had also declined drastically in areas affected by the crisis.
The Government, he said, was working diligently to restore law and order and to make Solomon Islands a secure and peaceful place for its children. Economic reconstruction and development was a key priority, as the Government's capacity to deliver better health and education services depended on it. The support of development partners, including United Nations funds and programmes, was also vital.
His Government welcomed and supported UNICEF's initiative to evaluate its programmes in Solomon Islands. Additional financial resources were required to expand those programmes and to supplement and sustain national efforts towards realizing the needs and rights of his country's children. Above all, the Government was cognizant of the need for good governance and sound policies, and was taking the necessary steps towards that end.
THOMAS HAMMARBERG (Sweden) said that with the new outcome text, for which there was broad consensus, world leaders had pledged new efforts to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of the child. Their implementation was more than a question of charity; it was a political challenge requiring a political vision, political will and conscious political decisions. National legislation should be reviewed, in order to bring it in line with the principles of the rights of the child, and the Convention, as a whole. One example was to ban corporal punishment and other abuses of children.
He proposed the establishment of a system of gathering data and statistics. The data should be disaggregated on the basis of gender, age, disability, family status and other essential criteria. Such facts should be analysed as a basis for further reforms. The systematic monitoring of children's situation should be supported, including possibly through the creation of an independent ombudsman. Also, professionals working directly with children should be educated about the meaning of children's rights. The Convention on the Rights of the Child should be part of school curriculums, and daily life in school should be organized around the spirit of that text. Affluent countries had an obligation to assist in burden-sharing. "When it comes to children our duties do not stop at national frontiers", he said.
MAJA FRANKEL, Swedish youth delegate, said that the reason the decisions made at the Children's Summit had not been implemented was because the political will to involve young people in them was still missing. Children's participation was not about decoration or grateful smiles; it was about being here on the same terms as everyone else, before, during and after the decisions were made. Respect for children happened when their views were taken seriously. With that kind of meaningful participation, young people could be seen as a resource rather than a burden. The point was not simply that children represented the future; they were living in the present and, today, "many of us suffer too much". In order to realize the Convention's principles, adults must understand how contemporary children lived.
JEAN-FRANCOIS GIOVANNINI, State Secretary of Switzerland, said that ratification was under way in his country on the Protocol on children and armed conflict. Too many children were still living in extremely precarious conditions, without basic education, adequate care and basic health services. Many were confronted daily by all forms of violence and discrimination, and exploited sexually and economically. Within that vulnerable group, some children required more specific protection, including the handicapped, minorities, street children, refugees and internally displaced children, and children orphaned by AIDS.
He said his country was doing everything possible to ensure that children were better protected. Switzerland's commitment to children was based on several fundamental principles, including their right to life, survival and development. Switzerland unequivocally condemned all forms of violence.
Switzerland would deepen its commitment to eradicate poverty and promote sustainable development and human security, he said. His country condemned the involvement of children under the age of 18 in armed conflicts. At the national level, Switzerland would step up its efforts in five priority areas, including preventing violence against children, in particular, sexual exploitation. The fight against trafficking of human beings was another priority. It would also encourage children's participation at all levels of life in society. Special emphasis would be placed on a better integration of foreigners, in particular children.
IVAN SIMONOVIC (Croatia), President of the Economic and Social Council, said responding to children's rights, interests and needs must become a political priority for all. By failing to invest in them now, their future and the future of the world would be undermined. The quality of human capital had become a crucial factor in a knowledge-driven global economy. How could children with deficits in areas of health and education have a fair chance to better their standard of living as adults and contribute meaningfully to their societies? he asked.
He said the special session was an important link in the chain of major conferences and summits intended to create a set of internationally agreed norms. During the Millennium Summit, commitments had been made to halve extreme poverty by 2015, and other targets had been set as well. In working to reach those targets, the international community should insist that interventions focus on children's rights, interests and needs. During the discussion between the Economic and Social Council and the Bretton Woods institutions a few weeks ago, it had been emphasized that the Monterrey Consensus represented a performance contract between donor and recipient countries, one that had to be fulfilled. "So let us start now with our children", he said.
The Council could contribute to achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and the creation of a world fit for children by mobilizing international political support. In its oversight and management responsibilities, the Council could ensure a coherent, coordinated and targeted response of the entire United Nations for the implementation of actions. To that end, the Council would mobilize its own subsidiary machinery, in particular its functional commissions, as well as the full potential of civil society organizations, including NGOs, the private sector and academia. "Let us work together and make our children proud of us", he said.
HUSSEIN HASSOUNA, observer for the League of Arab States, welcomed the accession of all Arab States to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, with the signing yesterday of Somalia. Arab States had elaborated national action plans for the implementation of the Convention's provisions, established ministries for children's affairs and submitted periodic reports to the Committee on the Rights of the Child.
The 2002 Arab Summit, he said, had adopted important legislation regarding children, including on the protection of the rights of Palestinian children. Palestine was isolated in the world, landlocked in its own homeland, deprived of food and water. It was crucial to investigate the atrocities committed against Palestinian children.
The negative aspects of globalization included increased poverty and the increased suffering of millions of children, he said. There had also been deterioration of the health of children and families as well as of education. It was also necessary to protect children in armed conflict and those affected by international sanctions. He stressed the important role of the family in bringing up young people. Families and society must set the example, he stressed. That example must be followed.
JOHN B. RICHARDSON, for the European Community Observer Delegation, said the European Union collectively provided 55 per cent of all ODA. At the recent International Conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey, the Union had announced its intention to further increase development assistance by $7 billion per year by 2006. In the policy focus on poverty, children were seen as particularly vulnerable. Mainstreaming gender aspects and human rights, including the rights of the child, were closely linked to the Union's poverty-eradication efforts.
He said that concerted efforts had brought health, education and gender issues to the core of the development process. There was also a new global consensus to respond effectively to the major diseases -- HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria -- which hit children the hardest. Considering that half the world's 3 billion poor were children, urgent implementation of existing commitments was needed to complete the unfinished agenda of the 1990 World Summit. Poverty eradication was at the heart of the Union's development strategies. It also fully supported efforts to assist children affected, usually for life, by conflict.
The European Community would provide humanitarian aid to children in armed conflicts, with the understanding that those endeavours required cooperation of all State parties to ensure safe access, he said. Recognizing the need to improve related data-collection and analysis, it welcomed the United Nations initiative to establish a global research network. He also welcomed the entry into force of the two Optional Protocols to the children's convention. The Union's own programmes had added a new dimension in 1999 relating to children, which included the fight against human trafficking and sexual exploitation. An asylum and immigration policy had also been introduced.
MOKTAR LAMANI, observer for the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said as Islam was an all-embracing religion that cared equally for both the spiritual and the worldly, it accorded particular care to children and their welfare. Islam provided children the greatest measure of love and care, and laws had been put in place to ensure them the best possible upbringing and education in a healthy, natural and compassionate environment.
Whereas the United Nations documents on children had been elaborated only a few years ago, the fundamental rights of children in Islam had been charted out some 14 centuries ago. Islam placed humankind above all and vested considerable interest in the concept of "good society" as the basic nucleus of a community in which children could grow and flourish. Islam had laid out rules to ensure cohesion. It had banned promiscuity and advocated dignity as the basis of a well-balanced society where fundamental rights were guaranteed.
He went on to say that the Islamic faith advocated taking charge of orphans. It also stressed children's imperative to respect their parents. With such a culture in mind, the Islamic Conference had devoted particular attention to the protection of the child. It had effectively joined hands with the United Nations in special efforts on behalf of children's welfare since 1989. At present, the Islamic Conference was in consultation with competent bodies, including UNICEF, to hold a ministerial conference on children's social welfare and policy. He said that a review of the situation of the world's children showed real progress had been achieved in the areas of health, education and social services.
But at the same time, millions of children in the developing world were still victims of disease and malnutrition, he said. Millions more had no chance for an education. All that indicated that the funds committed at the 1990 Summit had never actually been disbursed, and that the promised investments in social services had never materialized. In the face of that reality, the Islamic Conference called on rich countries to alleviate the debt burden of developing countries, so that they could provide needed assistance to lower child and infant mortality, among other things. The Islamic Conference had also called for measures to be taken to prevent armed conflicts.
All that led him to the tragic situation of the Palestinian child at this time of dreadful and unceasing Israeli attacks in the Palestinian territories, he said. Such a situation placed a double duty on international actors to protect the rights of the children persecuted in Palestine and other parts of the world and to ensure safe and stable family conditions.
JACK HANNING, speaking on behalf of the Council of Europe, said the Council had always recognized the universality and importance of the standards and principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Other Council of Europe standards for children had been drawn up on matters such as the age of majority, protection of children in the field of biology and medicine, placement, adoption, custody, maintenance and nationality, among others.
The Council of Europe had just decided to set up a group of specialists on the protection of children against sexual exploitation, he said. The group was expected to develop a series of measures in close cooperation with UNICEF, Interpol and the European Union to ensure a common approach to the protection of children against sexual exploitation. The Council was also working on the development of alternatives to institutional care and measures to ensure that children in institutions were properly prepared for their re-integration into society.
The Council of Europe welcomed the opportunity of taking forward into the new millennium, with the United Nations, the plans and commitments made during the special session.
JEAN DE COURTEN, Vice-President, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said the declaration and the plan of action had given the protection of children in armed conflicts a significant place, which was entirely justified. War was indeed a formidable obstacle in achieving the goals set by the international community in those documents. War was synonymous with insecurity and led to deficiencies in children. For many years, the ICRC had been striving to make a contribution through activities for the civilian population as a whole, as well as through measures specifically targeted at children. Protection and assistance rendered to communities and families often were the best way to ensure children's security and protection of the child's physical and mental health.
The ICRC intervened with parties in conflict on behalf of the civilian population and detained people in areas of conflict. It paid particular attention to non-accompanied children and promoted family-links by helping in the search for family members and family reunification. The organization was also involved in standard-setting. Present legal regimes offered significant protection, but rules must be applied, which was a concern of the States. To ensure respect for humanitarian law, States must disseminate information about those laws among the military and the civilian population. The ICRC was also prepared to assist States in drafting legislation to implement humanitarian law.
The Optional Protocols to the Convention highlighted the risks for children of sexual exploitation and participation in conflicts. To prevent those risks, it was not only necessary to implement repressive measures, but also to maintain and shore up the social and family context. In the case of child soldiers that might be difficult because of traumatic experiences during combat and lack of education. Several national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies had developed psychological and social rehabilitation projects. All of that reflected part of the problem. Children were sent into combat or mutilated by landmines. Others were tortured, imprisoned, abandoned or condemned to die from hunger and disease. "It is for them that we must act without waiting longer", he said.
JOSE ANTONIO LINATI-BOSCH, observer for the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, said the global context of protecting the welfare and well-being of the world's children must be considered. As with all international issues, those concerning children were tied to social, cultural and human rights aspects, as well as related economic and legal considerations. A comprehensive programme to address the situation of children could only be created through broad cooperation among a wide range of international actors, including United Nations agencies, national governments and civil society.
Through its humanitarian activities, the Order took care of children from many different countries, including Brazil, the Dominican Republic, and the Holy Land. He drew attention to the fact that its Holy Family Hospital in Bethlehem -- a maternity hospital that conducted over 40,000 medical examinations a year -- had been damaged during the recent violence in Palestine.
In all conflicts, children were the most vulnerable and harmed group, he said. He added that he had witnessed the problem of children in refugee camps first hand. With the cooperation of its volunteer corps, the Order was helping to assure children the right to be born and to an education.
RIDHA BOUABID, observer for the International Organization of the Francophonie, said the special session had been held to mark the anniversary of the World Summit for Children. Unfortunately, the implementation of all the commitments made at that conference had not been achieved. Indeed, global actors appeared hopeless in the face of issues such as poverty, conflict and malnutrition, which still prevented children from achieving their true potential. The Francophonie had undertaken broad efforts to ensure the protection and promotion of the rights of children throughout the world.
The organization had met at the ministerial level in Dakar in July 1993 and had there adopted a common francophone policy for children. That policy aimed to ensure investment in peace and stability for the development of tomorrow. Its Eighth Summit had been devoted to youth. Whenever called upon, the organization had also offered its solid expertise in the area of education and technical training. A Parliament of young people that had adopted a policy for youth in the twenty-first century had also been created. All of those actions would not be successful unless they were accompanied by efforts to strengthen protection and promotion of the rights of children. Much remained to be done in that regard and all must strive to strengthen international legal instruments and promote their ratification and implementation.
JANET DAVIDSON, Vice-President, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said children were not only the very fragile beneficiaries of their movement -- they exemplified the fundamental principles that characterized and inspired it. For example, 1,000 young volunteers were participating in the home care programme of the Red Cross in Bosnia and Herzegovina, providing a vital service to lonely housebound elderly people. In Cambodia, Red Cross volunteers helped raise awareness about the deadly threats of mines. Red Crescent youth in Bangladesh were involved in the campaign to eradicate polio.
She said that the immense power that was generated when children helped other children was nowhere more prominent than in Africa, where children were beginning to spearhead the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS and associated stigmas. The Federation had chosen to focus on the impact of HIV/AIDS on young people at the special session, since the pandemic was compromising the lives and rights of millions of children around the world. Two days ago, on World Red Cross Red Crescent Day, the International Federation, together with UNAIDS and the Global Network of People Living with AIDS, launched a global action to related stimga and discrimination.
She called on world leaders to put the care and protection of children at the forefront of their policies, legislation and development plans. Collaborating with others was essential to combating the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The goals of the Global Action for Children agenda of promoting healthy lives, providing quality education, protecting children from abuse, exploitation and violence, and combating HIV/AIDS were achievable. Moreover, the global community had the resources needed to reach those goals.
NDIORO NDIAYE, Deputy Director-General, International Organization for Migration (IOM), said that for an international humanitarian organization dealing with vulnerable populations, there was no more heart-rending subject than that of the most vulnerable victims of abuse and exploitation: children. The subject was vast, but two dramatic issues affected the daily lives of children: children as victims of war and conflict, and children as victims of trafficking. In countries engaged in armed conflict, millions of children were deliberately targeted and millions more were either transformed into soldiers or forced to serve the combatants. They were the first victims of displacement, malnutrition, disease and sexual violence. That was the background against which IOM developed and carried out post-conflict interventions and demobilization programmes.
He said services and interventions to help children in armed conflict included: provision of emergency relief to demobilized child combatants and their families; provision of special kits, including toys, aiming at returning to them a piece of their lost childhood; arranging for voluntary return of war-affected children; and development and implementation of post-conflict family and child support programmes through psychosocial rehabilitation services.
Economics was the primary cause of trafficking in children, as they represented the most vulnerable economic force to be exploited, he said. In Asia alone, it was estimated that over the past 30 years, 30 million women and children had been trafficked for sexual exploitation. In Guatemala, some 1,500 babies were trafficked abroad every year for adoption. Asian and Eastern European girls, as young as 13, were trafficked as mail-order brides. In West and Central Africa, large numbers of children were trafficked for labour.
To help prevent trafficking, IOM organized seminars. It conducted research, coordinated policies and measures, and created networks to deal with the issue. The IOM further provided trafficked children in transit and receiving countries with legal and medical counseling and assistance. It also sought to address the health care needs of trafficked migrants while offering voluntary return and reintegration assistance tailored to the individual situation of children. The IOM was assisting some 500 trafficked children per year under its various counter-trafficking projects.
SILA GONZALEZ CALDERON, observer for Puerto Rico, said that any country that aspired to the genuine progress and development of its society understood the need to produce good citizens capable of creating a better life. Sustainable human development, involving the social, economic, political and cultural dimensions, was one of the priorities for any society aspiring to progress. Infancy, childhood and adolescence were the periods during which the basis of the future individual were formed. Any expenses in terms of human development were a solid investment. The process involved more than providing basic needs and also involved the transmission of values.
The Constitution of Puerto Rico sought to ensure the full enjoyment of the human rights of every individual, she said. The abuse of those rights by some sectors of society had necessitated the establishment of mechanisms for the protection of the rights of the child. The Charter of the Rights of the Child was among the legislative measures taken by Puerto Rico with regard to child protection. That protection also involved programmes for prevention and treatment.
The present administration in Puerto Rico was committed to improving the situation of children at every level, she said. Young people needed more attention to be given to the circumstances they faced in life. It was the responsibility of the State to provide basic security for young people, but it was also the responsibility of families.
NAJMA HEPATULLA, President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union Council, said that at its conference in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, last September, the Union had issued a comprehensive resolution recognizing the need for protecting and caring for children, and supporting the need for the special session. That resolution provided the blueprint for parliamentarians everywhere to take decisive action in support of children, and formed the basis for discussion in the parliamentary forum jointly organized by the Union and UNICEF yesterday.
Giving the highlights of that forum, she said parliamentarians had proposed that legislation should take a rights-based approach to issues relating to children. They had also recommended a child-rights audit of all legislation passed in order to ascertain how it would affect children and to ensure they did so in a positive way.
She said the forum had recommended a similar approach to national budgets. The budget was more than a financial document. It was a major social policy document and parliamentarians needed to know how it affected children, whether directly or indirectly. Such an approach could be achieved by analysing the budget from a child-rights perspective.
The conference had proposed that governments be invited, or even obliged, to make an annual report to their Parliament on its policies, programmes and action with regard to children, she said. Parliaments should hold an annual debate on the issue during which they would also examine the report.
MAYERLEY SANCHEZ, Hague Appeal for Peace, said she came from Colombia, a country that had been destroyed by 50 years of violence. She thanked the session on behalf of all the young people participating in the Children's Forum for the opportunity to share their experiences. Although those voices had been few, they had found a place in delegates' hearts. The children representatives had taken advantage of the session. It had not been just a game. The work achieved was reflected in the faces of the participating children.
She said many children had been born in terrible situations of violence and poverty, but they had not given up, they had not joined street gangs, and continued to work for peace and for their rights, because they were convinced that only they themselves could build the path towards an end to violence. They wanted people who had acted badly to wake up, realize their mistakes and make amends for them. The Movement of Boys and Girls in Colombia for Peace disseminated information about the rights of the child. It promoted awareness and sought greater participation of children and adults.
She thanked all adults present here on behalf of all the children of the world, because they had said yes to the children. From now on the children knew they could work hand-in-hand with the adults.
KAILASH SATYARTHI, Chairperson, South Asian Coalition on Child Servitude, shared the memory of a 14-year old girl from India -- Gulabo. She had been brought up as a slave and afflicted with severe malnutrition and tuberculosis. Her father had worked as a slave laborer at brick kilns for years, together with the rest of their family. They had been tortured and abused and never paid in any way except for some poor quality food. He had liberated that family and 27 others in a secret raid. Gulabo had died almost immediately.
He said that freedom and learning were the two birthrights of every human being. Any activity that took away those rights was a crime against nature and humanity. Whatever the reason, if a child was compelled to work at the cost of his freedom and education, that was a shame. Shame on those who exploited and shame on those who offered empty promises. Five measures must be taken to make the world really fit for all children: free quality education; a greater share for the poor of the world's income; fair global trade; safeguarded natural resources; and peace.
CHRISTIANA THORPE, Forum for African Women Educationalists, Sierra Leone Chapter, said her organization had established a non-formal education programme for displaced Sierra Leonean children and youths in Conakry. Five years into the war, enrolled children already displayed the syndrome of having been imbibed with a culture of violence. A systematic programme was needed on education for a culture of peace. Now that the guns were silent, it was time to effect such a programme through the educational system. Children up to 18 years old had not had the experience of peace. There was a surplus of 18,000 children who, because of the war, had not been able to access the national primary school exams, normally taken at the age of 12. Fifty per cent of those children would not get into school in September because schools had been destroyed.
The girl child combatants/rape victims were another problem, she said. Since March 1999, the forum had worked with 725 girl-mothers from 12 to 18 years old. Their educational needs were enormous, including basic education, reproductive health education and motherhood skills, but above all training in sustainable livelihood skills for self-reliance.
TAKEYASU MIYAMOTO, President of Arigatou Foundation, said the Global Network of Religions for Children had been established two years ago by the Arigatou Foundation to promote cooperation among religious people working for the well-being of children. Some 300 religious leaders and grass-roots workers from every major religion and 33 countries had attended the first forum of the Network in May 2000. In the statement of that forum, the conviction had been expressed that each child bore in her or his very being the hope and promise of the future of the Earth. It had also been acknowledged with deep remorse that religious people often had failed to practice the deepest insights of religious tradition in regard to the dignity of the child. The horrors of last September rejected the precious future of the child and had threatened the very foundation of human dignity.
He said the Network would pursue three vital courses of action: to establish a "council on global ethics education for children" to make the development of spirituality in children an essential part of quality education; to strengthen efforts to eradicate poverty, giving attention not only to external causes but also to those that stemmed from the heart; to exercise leadership and set an example, seeking to generate a universal moral force that would propel implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and mobilize people from all walks of life to contribute to the Global Movement for Children.
MARY DIAZ, Executive Director of the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children and Co-Chair, NGO Steering Group, NGO Committee on UNICEF, noted that the special session was attended by more than 1,700 representatives of NGOs from more than 88 countries. Most were from the developing world. That was a big difference from the 1990 World Summit, when very few of them had been invited to "listen". The special session was different. The United Nations had recognized the important role played by civil society organizations. NGOs provided vital services in the areas of health care, education and protection. More importantly perhaps, they were critical to monitoring of and advocacy for social and legal reforms.
She said that many of the lifesaving achievements for children over the past decade had been accomplished in partnership with NGOs. "In many ways great and small, we are responsible for changing the world for children", she said. For example, NGOs had led the work to rid the world of landmines. The Global March against Child Labor, the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, the Child Rights Caucus, the Global Health Council, the Global Movement for Children were just a few of the NGO groups linking with others to provide leadership on issues affecting children. They were committed to working together to monitor national action plans, as well as commitments made at the special session. NGOs had had limited access to the negotiation process; governments must recognize that they should be consulted.
BURKHARD GNARIG, Chief Executive Officer, International Save the Children Alliance, said that despite some improvements, the balance sheet remained unjustly tilted against children. In terms of global action to create a world fit for children, rigorously applying the principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child was among the key priorities for civil society groups. The Convention must serve as the cornerstone for all follow-up action of the special session. Future strategies must be based on the recognition of children as holders of rights, as participants and social actors -- as part of the solution to the challenges they faced, not part of the problem.
He said that to hasten fulfilment of children's rights, rights must be properly integrated into trade negotiations and other economic policy-making, which affected children. Poorer countries must be guaranteed additional resources to realize children's rights, for example, through faster and deeper debt relief.
Recent offers of significant ODA increases were welcome, but did not come close to the estimated $70 billion required to reach the goals in health and education alone, he said. Also, basic services meant providing universal, quality health care and education systems, which gave every child the possibility of reaching his or her full potential.
MARJORIE KABUTA of the Christian Children's Fund said she had worked in community development for more than 20 years. She addressed the Assembly today representing NGOs that worked with families and children affected by HIV/AIDS. The threat of AIDS was the greatest threat to the survival, development, protection and participation of children in the world today, especially in Africa. Statistics and reports in the media could never convey the human tragedy the disease had wrought at every level of African society.
As the world entered the third decade of the pandemic, community groups such as the Fund called on governments and other NGOs to make commitments to identify, develop, support and scale up successful prevention strategies and care models, she said. Governments, NGOs and other donors must focus more funding on building capacities of communities to handle the problems of children in Africa who had been orphaned by AIDS and other children who were forced to serve as care givers when their parents died.
MARIJAP-DUBRAVKA UZELAC of the Center for Peace and Non-Violence said that at the end of the twentieth century her homeland, Croatia, and the surrounding region had witnessed countless violations of children's rights during the protracted conflicts. Children had been killed, wounded and separated from their families. It was assumed that as many as 10,000 unaccompanied refugee children from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina had been either forcibly displaced or sent outside war zones by their parents in order to save their lives.
Conflicts throughout the world had caused unacceptable suffering for children, she said. World leaders must therefore make strong commitments to ensure their children's well-being and, more importantly, follow-up those promises with concrete and immediate action. The new Global Children's Movement could be used as a powerful tool for making cultural changes in national strategies so that children's rights could be protected more effectively. That Movement was a force for real change that involved each and every nation. The international community should adopt the Movement as a means to turn the global culture of war into a culture of peace.
The Assembly then adopted the draft resolution contained in the report of the Credentials Committee.
The representative of Iran expressed his country's reservations on those parts of the resolution contained in paragraph 13 of the text, which might be construed as recognition of Israel.
The Assembly then turned to the draft resolution contained in the report of the Ad Hoc Committee of the Whole.
The Assembly adopted the draft resolution without a vote.
The representative of El Salvador expressed his satisfaction at the consensus reached on the document, which would make a contribution to strengthening national policies. On the section in the document on promoting a healthy life, he reaffirmed his delegation's position, taken at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, regarding reproductive rights, sexual health and family planning. Those concepts did not promote abortion for regulating fertility or as a health service. His country recognized and protected life from the moment of conception. He reserved the right to apply that interpretation to all future discussions of sexual health.
The representative of Costa Rica, speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, reaffirmed the Group's commitment to the development of their people and the promotion of the rights of children. Its implementation, along with the observance of internationally recognized standards and agreements reached at United Nations conferences, would ensure a better future for children.
Speaking in his national capacity, he said that nothing in the text should be construed as his delegation's endorsement of abortion. He reaffirmed the fundamental right to life from the moment of conception.
The representative of Argentina said that his delegation understood that the last portion of paragraph 29 of the document did not restrict but broadened rights of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The formulation of reservations to treaties was a sovereign rights of States. The power to launch reservations promoted the adoption of national treaties. He reiterated the interpretative statements made at the Cairo Conference, the Beijing Conference in 1995, the Habitat II Conference of 1996 and the Conference on Food in Rome of 1996. The family concept was to be understood to refer to the union of man and women. With regard to gender perspective, his delegation interpreted this as the equality of boys and girls, taking into account their differences.
The representative of Honduras enthusiastically welcomed the adoption of the document, which would strengthen the institution of the family and reduce poverty. Mindful of the fact that maternity rights and the rights of children were enshrined in the constitution, he reiterated reservations made in other conferences regarding the inviolable rights of all human beings from the moment of conception until death. He recognized that family was the foundation of society. Supporting promotion of abstinence in sexual conduct to avoid transmission of sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy, he respected the primary rights of parents to choose the education fit for their children.
The representative of Spain, speaking on behalf of the European Union, expressed satisfaction at the agreement reached, which would promote the rights of children all over the world. Its adoption brought to a culmination a lengthy preparatory process covering more than two years. The language of the text did not fully reflect the commitments taken at the international level in such an important area as reproductive health. Also, he would have liked to have seen reflection of the progress made at the International Conference on Financing for Development.
He highlighted the significant level of agreement reached on a number of issues which impacted on the future of boys and girls. He reaffirmed the Union's commitment to attaining the Millennium Development Goals for its children. Likewise, he took delight in the striking references contained in the document to capital punishment.
The representative of Nicaragua said his delegation supported and endorsed the consensus decision on the final documents just adopted by the Assembly. It thus joined the global commitment towards betterment of the world on the behalf of children. Nicaragua understood that the document was not legally binding and its principles would be considered recommendations.
He said that references to "sexual and reproductive health" practices should be enacted in a holistic and mature manner. Nicaragua considered life to begin at the moment of conception until death became a determinable fact. It also understood references to "sexual health" not to include references to abortion. Nicaragua recognized that references to "various types of families" referred only to those shaped by the union of a man and a woman, single families and extended families.
The representative of the United States said, concerning the references in the text to United Nations conferences and five-year reviews, his country did not understand the promotion of those conferences to be promoting abortion. His delegation understood terms including "basic social services", "family planning", "sexual health" and "safe motherhood" to in no way include abortion or abortion-related services. The United States did not include injuries or illnesses caused by illegal or legal abortion among abortion-related services.
He said the United States fully support the principle of voluntary choice in family planning and reiterated that in no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning, and that women who had recourse to abortion should in all cases have humane treatment and counseling provided them. It emphasized its commitment to programmes that addressed greater male involvement in pregnancy prevention and voluntary family planning and the need to stress the practices of abstinence, delaying sexual initiation, monogamy and fidelity and partner reduction in order to prevent HIV infection, among other things.
He said the United States stressed the importance of access to universal primary and secondary education, particularly for girls. It also reaffirmed that the family was the natural and fundamental group unit of society and was entitled to protection by the State, according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It recognized the right of men and women to marry and to found a family, according to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. As regarded the phrase, "various forms of families exist", the United States understood that to include single parent and extended families. It also understood that "children's rights" was seen at all times in relation to the rights and duties of parents. It emphasized the involvement of parents in decisions affecting children in all aspects of sexual and reproductive health.
The representative of Bolivia said her delegation joined the consensus as a triumph for children and adolescents everywhere. The document covered every aspect of the lives of children. One fundamental aspect, however, continued to be ignored and rejected -- the reproductive rights of adolescents. Bolivia had one of the highest rates of maternal mortality among young women due to many factors, including abiding poverty, geographic location or economic status.
She said many women did not have access to adequate medical care. She could therefore assure everyone concerned about the efficacy of ensuring equitable and accessible reproductive health care, providing such care was about the right to life. That was their reality and it would be irresponsible to ignore it.
The representative of Canada said the outcome document made a number of advances for children, including for indigenous and war-affected children. It was an important step forward compared to the outcome of the World Summit. He registered his dissatisfaction with the debate over sexual and reproductive health, which was a critical issue to the well-being of children. He strongly supported programmes that ensured the right of people for making informed choices for their own reproductive health. Services of family planning, education and counseling were an important part of such programmes, and access to such programmes was essential.
Recent conferences, such as Cairo and Beijing and their five-year reviews, had been significant steps forward in understanding the issues, he said. It was regrettable that attempts had been made to retrench those outcomes. He stressed that for his country the outcomes of the aforementioned conferences would continue to be benchmarks for future actions.
The representative of Iran said his delegation had joined in the consensus and considered the outcome of the special session as an important document for the promotion and protection of the rights of children. However, he noted that his Government had set out its position on those parts of the document relating to the Convention on the Rights of the Child at the ratification of the Convention.
The representative of Benin, speaking on behalf of the Group of African States, welcomed the outcome of the session. By adopting the final document, the international community had recommitted itself to work for the well-being of children in all areas. She expressed gratitude to all participants who had contributed to the consensus reached, particularly the Chair of the Preparatory Committee, Patricia Durrant of Jamaica, and Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF.
The representative of Guinea-Bissau said that while his country was ready to implement all decisions resulting from the session, it reserved the right not to implement those provisions of the document that went against his country's Constitution.
The observer for the Holy See welcomed the consensus decision in the adoption of the document and expressed her understanding of the document. Nothing that the Holy See had done in the process should be understood as an endorsement of concepts it could not accept. The reservations and statements of interpretation it had made in the past were also valid today on such issues as family, sexuality and the right to life from the moment of conception. The interests of the child were best served in the context of the family.
CAROL BELLAMY, Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), speaking on behalf of Kofi Annan, United Nations Secretary-General, said true to Mr. Annan's opening statement, the special session on children had indeed been special. It had been three days of extraordinary meetings. It marked the first session of the General Assembly where children were not only seen but heard. The child delegates participating over the past three days had captured the hearts and minds of the world leaders gathered to deliberate their futures. Their spirit and enthusiasm had been inspirational. They had asked for action now.
She said the Secretary-General had repeatedly recognized that children were not only an investment, but that investing in them was the first essential step towards breaking the cycle of poverty. She said the Assembly had just adopted a strong action-oriented document so appropriately called "A World Fit for Children". The goals for children just committed to were at the very heart of the Millennium Development Goals. On behalf of the Secretary-General, Ms. Bellamy congratulated delegations for that strong expression of their commitment.
HAN SEUNG-SOO, President of the General Assembly, noted that the special session would not have been so productive if not for the invaluable contributions of Member States, many of whom were represented by heads of State or government, and the full commitment of civil society and, above all, children and young people themselves. A record number of side events had taken place, where Member States, United Nations agencies, intergovernmental organizations, religious leaders, parliamentarians, NGOs and the private sector met together with children to share their experience, vision and, above all, to discuss how to translate words into action at all levels. The discussions had been lively and interactive, and had enriched the session in a profound way.
He said that building on the lessons learned since the 1990 World Summit for Children, and taking into account the emerging challenges and opportunities of today's world, the Assembly had adopted a Plan of Action that established new goals for children, key actions to be taken to meet those goals and strategies to monitor progress. The Plan of Action set out specific targets to achieve in the fields of health, education, protection against abuse, exploitation and violence, as well as combating HIV/AIDS among children.
In that regard, the session should not be seen as an end in itself, he noted. It was a milestone in a long journey that had begun in 1990 with the World Summit, gathered momentum during the 1990s and that had brought the international community here to plan the course for the future. And what had been agreed? he asked. The building of a world fit for children -- the need to make it a better place for them to grow up in, a place where their basic needs would be met, where their rights would be respected and promoted.
Member States, he continued, had adopted a Declaration that described very clearly the steps to be taken to build a new world fit for children. It was a practical and achievable checklist, not only for a better future, but also for immediate action that would improve child well-being today. Significant national efforts, including the mobilization of human, financial and material resources, were essential for achieving the targets in the outcome document.
It was crucially important to recognize that chronic poverty remained the biggest obstacle to promoting the welfare of children in many developing countries, he said. The international development goals and strategies agreed on at major United Nations conferences, particularly the Millennium Summit, should be continuously pursued by the international community to assist developing countries in eradicating poverty and promoting the well-being of children.
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