By Sarah Crowe
BEIJING, China, 8 November, 2010 – The conference started in the vast grandeur of China’s Great Hall of the People with one of the land’s most powerful leaders at the helm, and it ended with delegates from 28 countries in Asia and the Pacific symbolically stamping their thumbprints in red on a small screen.
|VIDEO: 6 November 2010 - UNICEF correspondent Sarah Crowe reports from Beijing on the UNICEF-supported High Level Meeting on South-South Cooperation for Child Rights in the Asia-Pacific Region. Watch in RealPlayer|
But the real mark left behind after last week’s High Level Meeting on South-South Cooperation for Child Rights in the Asia-Pacific Region – held with UNICEF’s support – was more than just a thumbprint. As the world’s most populous region moves forward with ever-increasing economic growth, vast disparities and inequities have left millions of children behind.
The High Level Meeting from 4 to 6 November marked a new push toward bridging development gaps in the region and putting its children first.
“Children represent the future and hope of humankind. With the development and progress of human society, there has been growing international consensus to prioritize and act for the cause of children,”China’s Vice President Xi Jinping said at the opening of the conference, citing the guarantees set forth by the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
|© UNICEF video|
|UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake greets Song Xiuyan, Vice-Chairperson of China's National Working Committee on Children and Women under the State Council, at the high-level Beijing conference on child rights in the Asia-Pacific region.|
“As the living environment in the Asia-Pacific region and many other countries around the world has improved,” he added, “there have been remarkable advances in the survival, protection and development of children. However, disparities persist in the status of children across the world.”
Mr. Xi concluded: “The healthy development of children is essential to building a harmonious world and achieving sustainable development.... We call on the international community to jointly safeguard world peace and stability to save women and children from the scourge of war. We call on governments of developed countries to fulfil their commitments and increase resources to promote the healthy, all-round development of children. We call on governments of developing countries to share their experience and create a better environment for children.”
The unanimous adoption of the meeting’s outcome document – the Beijing Declaration on South-South Cooperation for Child Rights in the Asia-Pacific Region – offered hope of a lasting commitment to advancing the rights of the region’s nearly 1.2 billion children. That commitment focuses on regional cooperation in three key areas: disaster risk reduction; child protection and welfare systems; and economic and social development that is equitable and reaches all children.
|© UNICEF video|
|At the end of a three-day meeting in Beijing, China, delegates leave their thumbprints on the Chinese symbol for 'children' as a sign of commitment to improving young lives in Asia and the Pacific.|
UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake, who attended the Beijing conference and met with high-ranking Chinese government officials during his visit, saluted progress in Asia and the Pacific. But he called for much greater cooperation and investment in a region that is seen as world’s economic powerhouse, yet still faces massive challenges.
“We have come together to reaffirm the same passionate commitment to improving children’s lives in this diverse and vibrant region,” said Mr. Lake. “Together, the 28 countries represented here are home to more than half the world’s children. Every one of those children has the same right to survive, thrive and to grow – and every one of them should be able to share in the benefits of Asia’s remarkable growth.”
In China, with its population of more than 300 million children under 18 years of age, disparities exist between rich and poor households, between rural and urban areas, and between the eastern and western parts of the country.
“China remains a developing country, with a large population, so it still has a lot to do to enhance its development,” said the Deputy Director of the National Working Committee on Children and Women, and Vice-President of the All China Women's Federation, Song Xiuyan. “China’s Government pledges to accelerate development in the west and to provide favourable policies in rural areas, so that everyone in the east and west and in rural areas can enjoy a good livelihood.”
To address growing economic and social inequities in the region – and to bridge the gap in the availability of essential services for children – governments will look to improved collection and use of data to increase understanding of disparities and their underlying causes. As a result, they should be better equipped to set policies and target spending so that the communities most in need are a priority in national development plans.
Among other commitments laid out in the conference declaration, governments will increase cooperation on practical measures for child-friendly disaster risk reduction at the community level.
The High Level Meeting represented the beginning of intensified efforts to strengthen and deepen south-south cooperation among countries in the Asia-Pacific region, and to advance children’s rights. The meeting was hosted by the All China Women’s Federation, the National Working Committee for Children and Women under the State Council, and the Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China.
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