By Kun Li
|UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy|
SIEM REAP, Cambodia, 23 March 2005 - UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy today addressed the opening session of the 7th East Asia and the Pacific Ministerial Consultation on Children, calling on participating countries to do more to tackle the growing disparities facing the region’s most vulnerable children.
“Evidence indicates that inequities and disparities are increasing in this region,” said Ms. Bellamy. “The fruits of growth have not been equally shared. Many families are deprived of access to basic social services that are fundamental to the fulfilment of their rights. We need strong, concerted, unified action to ensure disparities do not become a scourge that robs us of hard-won gains and fuels division and conflict.”
More than 200 delegates representing 26 countries in the East Asia and Pacific region are participating in the event, taking place in Siem Reap, Cambodia, 23 - 25 March. Government ministers, senior government officials, development experts, representatives of UN agencies and non-governmental organizations, children and young people will use the opportunity to assess progress made to date for children, and to build consensus on what more need to be done.
The Consultation is hosted by the Royal Government of Cambodia, and is taking place six months before the mid-term review of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The MDG mid-term review will measure progress in achieving the 2015 targets.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen gave the Ministerial Consultation’s inaugural address, while former Thai Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun delivered the keynote address.
Ms. Bellamy welcomed the enormous progress for children she has witnessed in the region during her 10 years as head of UNICEF. The number of people in the region living in absolute poverty has fallen, fewer children are dying before their fifth birthday, more boys and girls are in the classroom and better laws and policies to protect children, especially on trafficking, are in place.
Yet many countries in the region face numerous challenges in achieving the commitments they have made for children. Ms. Bellamy noted that certain groups, including those in remote geographic areas, ethnic minorities, rural and urban poor, people affected by HIV/AIDS and the disabled, were no better off than they were a decade ago.
“Many children are deprived of access to basic social services that are fundamental to the fulfilment of their rights,” said Ms. Bellamy.
The 7th Ministerial Consultation will seek a consensus on how to better address disparities. Particular attention will also be paid to child survival, growth and development.
With almost 600 million young people under the age of 18 in the region, delegates were urged to do more to create an empowering environment for young people’s participation in decisions affecting them. In addition, more needs to be done to better protect young people, since they are among the most marginalized and highly susceptible to economic and other forms of exploitation, and are most at risk of contracting HIV.
The delegates are expected to finalize a declaration outlining their commitments to children at the conclusion of the Consultation on Friday 25 March.
Madeline Eisner, Shantha Bloemen and Mark Thomas contributed to this story.