UN General Assembly opens high-level meeting on children’s issues
By Elizabeth Kiem
NEW YORK, USA, 11 December 2007 – The United Nations General Assembly began high-level talks on Tuesday, convening for a commemorative plenary meeting devoted to following up on the outcome of the Special Session on Children held in the same hall five years ago.
Speaking on behalf of the 90 young people who have congregated at UNICEF House in New York this week for a Youth Forum, Longeni Matsai, 14, of Namibia urged participants to listen “not only with your ears but also with your hearts.”
UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman also spoke at the opening of the two-day plenary, noting that in the years since the landmark Special Session – the first of its kind in UN history – there has emerged “a global culture that embraces children’s rights as central to the advancement of humanity.”
Representatives of more than 140 member states are slated to speak at the meeting, a “more-than-impressive level of participation,” said General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim of Macedonia.
Child health, education and protection
“The strong level of interest underscores the significance of the issue. The commitments made five years ago cut to the heart of the work of the General Assembly,” Mr. Kerim told reporters at a briefing after the opening session.
He added that key international priorities – including responding to climate change, financing for development and achieving the Millennium Development Goals – are closely tied to the aims of ‘A World Fit for Children’, the plan of action from the 2002 Special Session.
Mr. Kerim said he expected the General Assembly to adopt a declaration at the close of the plenary that will “reaffirm our commitment to full implementation” of the targets set out in ‘A World Fit for Children’: promoting healthy lives; providing quality education; protecting children against abuse, violence and exploitation; and combating HIV and AIDS.
Because of the record number of speakers, UN officials suggested the meeting – originally scheduled to conclude tomorrow – could run an extra day.