Around two billion people – one third of the world’s population and some 580 million children – live in the East Asia and Pacific region, which stretches from Mongolia in the north to Tonga in the south, and from Western China to the Cook Islands. The smallest member, Nieu, has 1,700 people; the largest, China, has 1.3 billion people.
The region has enormous diversity – in people, cultures, environments, economies, political systems and potential. The region is incredibly dynamic and boasts some of the fastest-growing economies in the world. Average annual gross domestic product growth between 1990 and 2003 was 6.2%. Yet while East Asia and the Pacific includes some of the world’s most developed nations, it also includes nine of the least-developed countries (five in the Pacific and four in East Asia). The Pacific is a distinct subregion within the wider region with its unique characteristics, dynamics and challenges.
All of the countries of this region have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which requires them to make the world safer, healthier and more respectful of children’s inherent human rights. Children’s needs have considerable prominence in the Millennium Development Goals, and we in UNICEF see it as our primary mission to help achieve those global goals for children. We are close to meeting some. But some is not enough – not when there are around 30 million children born in our region every year.
The UNICEF East Asia and Pacific Regional Office provides advice and programming support to its 14 country offices and carries out region-wide initiatives.
From discussions with all governments in the region, UNICEF has agreed to focus on three priority areas: