The Second Substantive Session of the PrepComm for the General Assembly's Special Session on Children
New York, 29 January 2001
Mr. President of the General Assembly, Madame Chair, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen:
This Second Substantive Session of the Preparatory Committee is opening at a crucially important juncture for the world's children - and their right to grow to adulthood in health, peace and dignity.
Both President Holkeri and Ambassador Durrant have eloquently recounted the accomplishments of the past decade - and the daunting challenges that children face in this new Millennium.
They have also spoken of the hard work that we face in the eight months that remain until the opening of the Special Session on Children.
This includes preparation of the end-decade review, the submission of national reports - and consideration of a draft outcome document that will herald the dawn of a new era in human development - an era when the whole world says "yes" to all rights for all children.
Indeed, as President Holkeri has pointed out, the Special Session and other forthcoming global gatherings represent a unique opportunity for leaders to reaffirm the specific goals for children that were set at the Millennium Summit.
You have heard, too, of President Holkeri's strong support for ensuring that every child be guranteed a healthy start in life; that every girl and boy be educated; and that every adolescent have ample opportunity to develop into caring and involved citizens.
Mr. President, Madam Chair: the vast and diverse representation at this PrepComm Session - a significantly larger representation than at the First Session last May - is a testament to the deep commitment to children that already exists worldwide - and to the convergence of strategy, resources and action that the UN and its agencies have worked to promote.
It is also a reminder that all that the world has achieved for children - and all that we still must achieve - has come about because of partnerships.
Partnerships are at the heart of UNICEF's work - and over the years, they have come to encompass the entire spectrum of society, from governments and multilateral organisations to non-governmental organisations, religious groups and business and private enterprise, people's movements, academia and the media, community and grassroots groups, families - and children themselves.
Indeed, it is thanks to partnerships and the key role of NGOs that we now have the world's most acclaimed human rights instrument, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, whose principles inspire our work and light our path.
And the Convention, in turn, makes it clear that while families bear the primary responsibility for the direct care and protection of children, the task of ensuring child rights requires broad alliances that bring together governments and diverse elements of civil society.
Because of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, there is now widespread recognition that every child, no matter how poor or otherwise marginalised, has a whole galaxy of fundamental rights: the right to health and nutrition, to a primary education of good quality, especially for girls; to clean water and adequate sanitation, to gender equality; and to freedom from exploitation and abuse. Moreover, children have a right to a name and a nationality - as well as to express themselves freely and, in line with their evolving capacities, to participate in decisions that affect them.
As a result, the1990s were a time of remarkable progress toward the goals set at the World Summit for Children - including gains in child immunisation that have brought polio to the brink of eradication; the widespread prevention of iodine deficiency disorders through salt iodisation; increased access to primary education; widespread provision of Vitamin A supplements, and the promotion of breastfeeding standards.
But for all the many millions of young lives that have been saved, and for all the lives that have been bettered, it is clear that overall gains have fallen far short of national commitments and international obligations.
That is why governments, citizens of every nation and members of families, communities, and civil society organisations of every kind must seize the historic opportunity that lies before us.
For together we have the power and the resources to mobilise a global movement for children - a movement that will put the world on a path to end the poverty, ill health, violence and discrimination that needlessly blights and destroys so many young lives.
Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen: All over the world, the groundwork for this great undertaking is already being laid - and it can be seen in the global review and preparatory process that is leading toward the Special Session. For example:
In Africa, the OAU Summit last July in Togo discussed strategies to support orphans, vulnerable children, children infected by the AIDS virus, and to address child trafficking;
In Asia, a ministerial consultation in Beijing in May will bring together government policy makers, young people, members of civil society, the private sector, bilateral and multilateral organizations to discuss progress achieved for children;
In South Asia, a high-level consultation on the South Asian child in May will review achievements made to reach the World Summit goals;
Planning is well under way for a major conference in Berlin in May focusing on children in Europe and Central Asia, as well as a civil society consultation and youth forum to discuss a new agenda for children in Europe and in developing countries;
In Latin America and the Caribbean, major meetings were held, such as the Ministerial Meeting on Children and Social Policy in Kingston last October, and the Ibero-American Summit of Heads of State in Panama last November, which took up the themes of children and adolescents;
In the Middle East and North Africa, a regional youth forum took place last October in Jordan, and there will be a major civil society event in Morocco next month;
And at the global level, in places including Durban, Okinawa, Winnipeg, and at the United Nations, representatives of governments, civil society and children have been discussing priorities for children and reaffirming their commitment towards children.
Mr. President, the appointment of growing numbers of Personal Representatives of Heads of State and Government is further affirmation that the commitment to children is strong, and that it is growing at the highest levels. In that connection, I want to extend a special welcome to the 23 Personal Representatives who are here with us today - and wish them every success as a force for children in their countries.
I also want to give special acknowledgement to the large numbers of NGOs and other members of civil society represented here, among them religious organisations, service organizations and the private sector, including the media.
For without the active involvement of civil society, few of the life-saving milestones for children of the last decade could have been reached, such as:
The commitment of organisations like Rotary International to the campaign to eradicate polio; and of Kiwanis in the elimination of iodine deficiency disorders;
The coalition of NGOs that worked so hard to call attention to the rights of the most vulnerable children;
And the countless volunteers and ordinary citizens who pitched in and ensured that children got their vaccinations, that girls went to school, or that acts of violence and abuse were reported.
Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen: UNICEF remains convinced that a better future for every child is within reach - that together, we have the knowledge and the resources to ensure the well-being of all societies by decisively shifting national investments to favour the well-being of all children.
In the days ahead, you will be reviewing how far we have come - and what we must do to mobilise universal support for a new global vision for children, furthered by partnerships built on trust and co-operation.
That is why I ask all of you to remain mindful not only of the Special Session, but of what lies beyond.
For the real difference we must make in the life of every child will not be determined in September, but in the years and decades to come - and in that, Distinguished Delegates, your leadership and sustained commitment are absolutely essential.
May our work this week be successful in every way. Thank you.