GENEVA / NEW YORK, 13 March 2002 - Eight weeks from today world leaders will gather in New York City for a major conference focused on global progress for children and the key role that investment in children can play in building global peace and security, the United Nations announced today.
Originally scheduled to take place in September 2001 but postponed following the attacks in New York City and Washington, the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Children is expected to bring at least 60 Heads of State and Government to New York for three days 8-10 May.
The Special Session, an end-of-decade follow-up to the 1990 World Summit for Children, will present world leaders with a detailed review of what has been achieved for children and what has not been achieved. The Special Session is expected to focus on how investment in children's education, health, and protection contributes to global stability and peace.
The Special Session on Children will conclude with the adoption of a new set of global goals focused on children and an action plan to reach them.
In June 2001, in anticipation of the original meeting date, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan issued a progress report detailing what had been done toward the goals set in 1990 and what had been left undone. Entitled "We the Children," the report contains information from 135 national-level reviews, comprising the most comprehensive picture ever assembled of the global child. It has since been updated to reflect even more recent data.
"The world has fallen short of achieving most of the goals of the World Summit for Children," wrote the Secretary-General, "not because they were too ambitious or were technically beyond reach. It has fallen short largely because of insufficient investment."
The issue of how and why to invest in children has taken on greater significance since last September. Among the many measures needed to improve global stability and security, a consensus has grown that any such efforts must begin with building a world fit for children.
"I cannot imagine a truly better world that does not have at its foundation civilized treatment for up and coming generations," said Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). "Quality basic education for all children, decent health care, opportunities for positive participation in society, and protection from exploitation - these are basics that in too many places, for too many children, remain distant dreams."
"When nations have committed themselves to real investment in children, and made those investments in ways that promote the rights of children, real progress in human development has been achieved," Bellamy added. "Where children's rights have been given only lip service and investments have been minimal, societies continue to struggle."
Challenges Facing Children Today
There are 2.1 billion children in the world, accounting for 36% of the world's population. Some 132 million children are born each year. Globally, 1 in 4 children lives in abject poverty - in families with income lower than $1 a day. One of every 12 children dies before the age of five, mainly from preventable causes.
According to statistics assembled for the Secretary-General's report, "We The Children," of every 100 children born today:
And of every 100 who begin 1st grade, only 25 will reach the 5th grade.
"We have the resources and the knowledge to overcome these challenges," Ms. Bellamy said. "Our aim at the Special Session is to convince world leaders that investing in children is their number one responsibility - and that investing in children is the only lasting strategy for reducing poverty, stopping AIDS, and avoiding conflict."
Ms. Bellamy noted that the Special Session on Children falls between two major gatherings on global development - the International Conference on Financing for Development, which takes place next week in Mexico, and the World Summit on Sustainable Development in South Africa later this summer. She said investment in children would be high on the agenda of both, "and appropriately so."
"We must never forget that we are our own keepers," Bellamy said. "History will judge us harshly if we refuse to use our knowledge, our resources and our will to ensure that each new member of the human family arrives into a world that honours and protects the invaluable, irreplaceable years of childhood."
The Special Session of the UN General Assembly on Children
8-10 May, New York
Attendance: As of 12 March 64 Heads of State and Government had committed to attending the summit, and the number is rising weekly. More than 3,000 non-governmental organizations have been accredited to attend, more than at any other UN conference. (Eighty national leaders had pledged to attend the September 2001 before it was postponed.)
Process: Over the past 24 months, a series of Regional Consultations by governments and NGOs has produced concrete regional commitments that will inform the Special Session and serve as regional roadmaps for improving children's lives. These can be viewed online at www.unicef.org. Tens of thousands of individuals from around the world, including children and young people, have taken part in this highly inclusive process.
Statistics: The Secretary-General's report, "We The Children," is also available online at www.unicef.org. A series of summary fact sheets are now available, including "Short Takes on Progress," and "Who Is the Global Child."
UNICEF: UNICEF has been appointed by the UN General Assembly to act as the substantive Secretariat for the Special Session. The UNICEF Media team, with headquarters in New York and Geneva and field offices and National Committees in 160 countries, can assist news organizations in story development, accessing facts and figures, arranging interviews, and acquiring video b-roll. Media accreditation for the Special Session is handled by the UN Department of Public Information (DPI). For detailed instructions visit the Special Session web pages at www.unicef.org.
Say Yes: UNICEF is one of several children's organizations urging people all over the world to support action for children through the Say Yes for Children campaign. By logging on to www.gmfc.org, people can vote for the three most important actions that leaders must take for children. The results, which already include more than 51 million ballots, will be presented at the Special Session. The message: People care about children and want governments to keep the promises they make to them.
What's Ahead: Over the next eight weeks, the Special Session media team will be issuing weekly press updates on the meeting, including listings of who's coming, what the key issues will be, and what else is happening around the Special Session on Children. To be included on our mailing lists, please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
During March and April, Carol Bellamy will be travelling to Panama, Mexico, Spain, Italy, South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya, with possible additional stops in Geneva and Washington, D.C.
For further information, please contact:
Laufey Löve, UN Department of Public Information, New York (212) 963-3507
Liza Barrie, UNICEF Media Chief, New York (212) 326-7593
Alfred Ironside, UNICEF Media, New York (212) 326-7261
Wivina Belmonte, UNICEF Media, Geneva (41-22) 909-5509