RECORD NUMBER OF CHILDREN TO BE OFFICIAL
Unique Conference between World Leaders, Children and Non-Governmental
GENEVA/NEW YORK, 19 April (UN Information Service) -- More than 300 children will serve as delegates at next month's landmark United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Children, United Nations officials announced today. This is also the first time young people will actively participate in deliberations at a major United Nations conference in such large numbers.
"It may seem like common sense to invite young people to a conference completely dedicated to their well-being. But this is a radical change for such high-level meetings," said Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). "Children will literally be rubbing shoulders with presidents and prime ministers. They will have a chance to voice their concerns and influence the debate."
The children's attendance, along with the expected participation of more than 1,000 representatives from child-focused non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from around the world, promises to broaden the 8 to 10 May meeting at the United Nations far beyond the traditional core of official government representatives.
To date, 179 children have registered as members of government delegations from 101 countries. The remaining children are part of accredited non-governmental organization (NGO) delegations. Many more young people are expected to sign up in the coming weeks, forming an intriguing and youthful counterpoint to the more than 70 heads of State and Government that have so far committed to attending.
"It is vitally important to listen to children and young people, especially when making decisions concerning them. How can you make decisions about young people if you do not know what they want?" said Claire Bradley, 17, a member of the United Kingdom delegation from Belfast, Northern Ireland. "Governments should be responsible for making sure that policies are in place so young people have their say, regardless if this is in their school, or on local, national or international levels."
An Historic Breakthrough for UN Conferences
The Special Session on Children, postponed from last September due to the attacks on New York and Washington, DC, will be the first time the United Nations General Assembly has called a Special Session to specifically address issues relating to children. It will explore the long-standing obstacles to children's well-being, as well as newly emerging challenges. A key part of the process will be a review of progress made since the 1990 World Summit for Children, where governments committed to specific and time-bound goals on child survival, protection and development.
Most of the child delegates will first participate in the 5 to 7 May Children's Forum, where they will prepare positions on issues to be deliberated by governments in the plenary of the Special Session. The Forum will select two children to present its outcome to the plenary. There will also be numerous opportunities for the young people to interact with world leaders during the conference, including several scheduled closed-door sessions.
"The Children's Forum will provide me an opportunity to learn from and share my experiences with fellow children from all over the world," said Jehanzeb Khan, 12, a delegate from Pakistan. "It is important because it provides a platform for children to express their views and opinions regarding the rights of children."
Breaking New Ground with NGOs
In addition to the record number of young delegates, a large contingent of representatives from non-governmental organizations, expected to exceed 1,000, will provide governments with a grassroots view of the needs of the world’s children. This is an attempt to bring community groups -- who often work the closest with children -- into the decision-making process.
Of the 3,765 non-governmental organizations accredited for the conference, 1,673 do not have a previous official United Nations affiliation. Arrangements were made for UNICEF to invite hundreds of the partners it works with in countries around the world, including child advocacy groups, non-profit agencies that specialize in development, and faith-based organizations. (The list of invited NGOs is available at www.unicef.org/specialsession/ngo/index.html.)
Hundreds of non-governmental organizations have already contributed to the Special Session's two main documents. The first, an updated version of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's report, "We the Children: End Decade Review of the Follow-up to the World Summit for Children," was released this week. It can be found at on the Web at: http://www.unicef.org/specialsession/press.
The second document, "A World Fit For Children", is the draft outcome document that will be considered by government delegates during the Special Session. It delineates the new commitments and goals for children that countries must adhere to over the next several years.
For further information, please contact: Patsy Robertson, Special Session Media, New York (212) 326-7270; Laufey Löve, UN Department of Public Information, New York (212) 963-3507; Liza Barrie, UNICEF Media Chief, New York (212) 326-7593; Alfred Ironside, UNICEF Media, New York (212) 326-7261; Mitchie Topper, UNICEF Media, New York (212) 303-7910; Wivina Belmonte, UNICEF Media, Geneva (4122) 909-5509.
Read all about the Special Session on Children at
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