UN General Assembly plenary closes with renewed commitment to children
By Chris Niles
NEW YORK, USA, 13 December 2007 – This week’s landmark United Nations General Assembly plenary ended today with a renewed commitment to meeting the goals laid out five years ago in ‘A World Fit for Children’, the plan of action from the assembly’s first Special Session on Children.
For the second time in UN history, children addressed the General Assembly directly and contributed to discussions covering issues such as climate change, education and HIV and AIDS. Millicent Atieno Orondo, 15, a youth delegate from Kenya, was the closing speaker at today’s session.
“This is our final chance to ask you to keep your promises and your final warning that action needs to be taken,” Millicent said. “It is no longer a question of what to do and how to do it, but of what is given priority.
“Teach the child of today so as not to punish the adult of tomorrow. If adults commit to act for a better present, we commit to them a better future.” Millicent Atieno Orondo, 15
“We call on you, all adult decision makers, to renew your commitment towards us and make us the number one priority,” she added. “There should be no argument about the interests of the child being the number-one priority.”
Poverty the greatest challenge
In a declaration adopted at the end of this week’s meeting, participating member states said that while many gains had been realised in the five years since the first Special Session, much needed to be done to build upon them.
The declaration identified eradicating poverty as the greatest global challenge facing children and families. Despite encouraging achievements, it said, the number of children dying before their fifth birthday remains unacceptably high.
The plenary’s outcome document went on to urge stepped-up efforts by governments, increased international cooperation and more effective partnerships with the media and the private sector to meet children’s needs. Delegates also resolved to strengthen children’s participation in decisions that affect them and said that in all actions regarding children, their best interests should be the primary consideration.
“It’s a privilege,” said Edith Asamani, 17, a youth delegate from Ghana. “I’m so happy that I had the chance to meet with a lot of leaders. I had a lot of messages for them and I think I’ve been able to convey that message.”
‘An event I shall never forget’
“It was interesting talking to government people and to hear their questions for us,” said Shay Zavdi, 17, of Israel, who was grateful for the opportunity to get to hear a range of views on child rights.
Prior to the General Assembly plenary, child delegates attended a two-day forum at UNICEF headquarters that prepped them for their high level presentations and meetings – and gave them a chance to get to know one another.
“It was as if we have been friends for so, so long,” said UK delegate Alex White, 16. “It’s just amazing to see so many different people who all have the same goal. It’s an event which I shall never forget.”
As Millicent said, neatly summing up the core purpose of this week of forward-looking debate and discussion: “Teach the child of today so as not to punish the adult of tomorrow. If adults commit to act for a better present, we commit to them a better future.”