GENEVA / NEW YORK, 26 April 2002 - Member States of the United Nations are expected to adopt a wide-ranging series of goals at a global conference next month in New York that will place children back at the top of the world's agenda and address the pressing issues of child mortality, AIDS, exploitation and poverty.
The 21 proposed goals promise to have far-reaching impact on the well-being of the world's young people. They form the basis of the 8-10 May UN General Assembly Special Session on Children and are contained in the conference's draft outcome document, A World Fit for Children, which United Nations Member States are currently finalizing as part of a yearlong consultative process (available at www.unicef.org/ specialsession/documentation/index.html).
"The unanimity among UN States toward the goals is very positive. It shows we can speak with one voice when it comes to our children," said Patricia Durrant, the Jamaican Permanent Representative to the United Nations who is chairing the Special Session's preparatory process. "We have learned from previous meetings that setting goals is a crucial step. With goals, we have something to strive for. Without them, we have no way of measuring our successes and failures."
At the Special Session on Children - rescheduled from last September due to the attacks - governments will review what has been achieved for children over the last decade and, crucially, what has not. The meeting is set to conclude with official agreement on the draft outcome document and its 21 goals, which will make a vital contribution to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals adopted by world leaders two years ago.
Many of the 2002 goals for children have been drawn from recent UN declarations aimed at pulling hundreds of millions out of poverty within a generation. Gathering the goals into a single document enables governments to focus on children as the cornerstone of a stable, thriving society. "Healthy and educated children do not merely result from economic development," said Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF. "They are a critical force driving it. If we are to invest in development, that means, first and foremost, we must invest in children. A single set of global goals on children gets the world moving in that direction."
New Challenges Emerge, Key Issues Remain
The goals build on targets set at the 1990 World Summit for Children. That meeting produced a declaration and plan of action that are among the most rigorously monitored and implemented international commitments of the last decade. Annual national and periodic international reviews of the 1990 goals have produced the most extensive set of data ever compiled on the status of children. The information is contained in the recently updated We the Children: Meeting the Promises of the World Summit for Children (available at www.unicef.org/specialsession).
Key issues from 1990 remain central to the new global goals, including further reducing infant and maternal morality, expanding access to clean water and sanitation, and establishing universal primary education. But new targets have been added in the areas of HIV/AIDS and child protection, reflecting the changing nature of the challenges facing the world's children.
Five goals deal with the protection of children from abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence. Because of their often hidden and undocumented nature, these issues do not lend themselves to delineated targets. Rather, each government has agreed to investigate these abuses, to set standards for monitoring them, and to protect children from them with appropriate legislation. Three of the goals address HIV/AIDS, whose devastating impact was largely unforeseen in 1990. Today children are both the pandemic's primary victims and the key to breaking transmission.
"The newer goals on child protection and HIV/AIDS are very important. By signing on to these goals, governments are helping break the silence on very troublesome issues that many societies might otherwise not address," Bellamy said. "Governments are recognising that the vulnerability of their children directly impacts the vulnerability of their countries."
The Goals of 1990: Mixed Results to Learn From
Today's goals are rooted in the knowledge gained since the 1990 World Summit for Children, where the world's nations agreed to 27 goals to be met by 2000. The results are decidedly mixed, with substantial progress in some areas matched with stagnation and even outright deterioration in other areas. Overall, of the 27 goals set in 1990, six had considerable success, twelve had some progress and three had no progress at all. For the remaining six, there is limited or inconclusive data (full results are available at www.unicef.org/specialsession).
One area of notable improvement is child health. Over the last decade, low-cost, high-impact programmes have helped drop global under-five mortality rates by more than 10 per cent, with 63 countries achieving the summit goal of one-third reduction. Deaths from diarrhoea, for example, have been reduced in half thanks to the rapid expansion of oral rehydration therapy. Another success is neonatal tetanus, with the summit goal of elimination reached by 104 of 161 countries.
But the overall picture shows how much work remains unfinished. Nearly 11 million children still die each year, often from readily preventable causes. An estimated 150 million children are malnourished. Over 120 million are still out of school. Tens of millions work, often in abusive conditions. Millions more are exposed to conflict and other forms of violence.
For further information, please contact:
Liza Barrie, UNICEF Media Chief, New York (212) 326-7593
Patsy Robertson, UNICEF Media, New York (212) 326-7270
Laufey Love, UN Department of Public Information, New York (212) 963-3507
Alfred Ironside, UNICEF Media, New York (212) 326-7261
Mitchie Topper, UNICEF Media, New York (212) 303-7910
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