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Bellamy Calls on World Leaders to Put Children First in Ending Discrimination

UNICEF Believes that Education is Key in Breaking the Cycle of Discrimination

DURBAN / NEW YORK, 1 September 2001 – UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy today called on world leaders attending the Conference on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance to put children and education at the centre of all their efforts.

"No one is more vulnerable than a child when it comes to the effects of racism, discrimination and intolerance," said Bellamy. "Discrimination, in whatever form, compromises the right of children to survive, develop, and reach their full potential – and that is why children must be a central theme of this conference."

What we need now is a new set of commitments to children from world leaders, including steps to ensure that public policy and law address the plight of all vulnerable groups. And in honouring those commitments, we must together build a world that is fit for all children – a world where no child is left out.

Carol Bellamy,
UNICEF Executive Director

In a speech Saturday, Bellamy reminded the conference that in less than three weeks, more than 70 heads of state and government will be gathering in New York for the largest meeting on child rights in more than a decade – the UN Special Session on Children. “Starting here in Durban, and continuing in New York later this month, you have a golden opportunity to put children at the centre of the global agenda,” Bellamy said. “I am a firm believer that we must change the world not only for children, but with children.”

Throughout the conference, UNICEF participants have promoted the crucial role that a quality education for children and young people plays in counteracting and reducing racism and discrimination. "If children are to promote the values of equity, tolerance and respect for diversity that are so essential for democratic societies, we must help them build their skills, their sense of responsibility and their self-confidence," said Bellamy. "And for that, we must assure every child’s right to a primary education of good quality."

UNICEF believes that education is vital to the full development of children, including those belonging to minorities, indigenous communities or other vulnerable groups. It gives them the chance to develop into productive and responsible members of society – to take part in decisions, assume responsibilities, and to resolve their conflicts in a peaceful way. A quality education also helps child victims of violence, abuse or exploitation recover – and helps them develop the skills to protect themselves against future violations of their rights.

Global statistics on progress made for children over the last decade show that millions of children continue to be marginalised and denied access to basic social services. Many of these children are from minority or indigenous communities including migrants, refugees or asylum-seekers. Bellamy noted that more than 10 million children still die each year from preventable causes; that 149 million children in developing countries still suffer from malnutrition; and that 100 million children, the majority of them girls, are not in school – and fall prey in vast numbers to trafficking, sexual violence and commercial sexual exploitation.

Looking ahead to the summit on children in September, Bellamy said: "What we need now is a new set of commitments to children from world leaders, including steps to ensure that public policy and law address the plight of all vulnerable groups. And in honouring those commitments, we must together build a world that is fit for all children – a world where no child is left out."

In the battle against racism and discrimination, UNICEF supports the strengthening of systems to collect and analyse data on children, including detailed information that exposes the everyday reality of the racism and discrimination they experience. UNICEF also works with governments to monitor the potential impact of their policies and programmes on children and to take corrective measures to ensure the realisation of child rights.

"Every one of us has a role to play in ending discrimination, marginalisation and exclusion, but it is children themselves who embody humanity’s hopes for a better world," said Bellamy. "By ensuring the right of all children to reach their full potential, we will set the stage to end, at long last, the vicious cycle of exclusion, intolerance and discrimination."

* * *

For further information please contact:

Mohammad Jalloh, UNICEF Media, New York, Tel: (212) 326 7516

Wivina Belmonte, UNICEF Media, Durban, Tel: (2783) 412-1247

Neville Josie, UNICEF Media, Durban, Tel: 27 82 561 0167

For news on September’s UN Special Session on Children, please visit: www.unicef.org/specialsession