NEW YORK, 10 May 2002 - The United Nations wrapped up its Special Session on Children late Friday with unanimous agreement on a new agenda for the world's children, including 21 specific goals and targets for child health, education and protection over the next decade, UNICEF announced.
The UN General Assembly Special Session on Children concluded after a week of inter-governmental negotiations on the new agenda for children, scores of supporting events delving into everything from immunization to child trafficking, and a refreshingly frank exchange between Heads of State and young people from around the world.
Friday evening, representatives from some 180 nations adopted the conference outcome document, entitled "A World Fit For Children." More than 18 months of consensus-building resulted in a strong future agenda focused on four key priorities: promoting healthy lives; providing quality education for all; protecting children against abuse, exploitation and violence; and combating HIV/AIDS. Elusive language on child rights, reproductive health, and other issues was resolved in good-faith negotiating sessions that lasted through the night Thursday and wrapped up successfully Friday evening.
"I am enormously proud and pleased at what has been accomplished this week," said Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF. "If leaders keep the promises they have made, we can bring about enormous positive change in the world in less than a generation."
Bellamy praised the government negotiators who worked hard to build consensus on the document. "No one wants to fail our children," Bellamy said. "When it comes to their health and welfare, there is really very little difference among nations. And when governments take children seriously, long negotiations are entirely appropriate."
"But the work does not end this week," Bellamy added. "It will take committed and bold leadership over the next few years if we are to meet the standards we have set for ourselves. In the 1990s we learned that making promises is not enough - you have to act on them."
Nonetheless, the UNICEF chief - who throughout the three-day conference dashed tirelessly from meetings with Heads of State, to substantive panels, to press briefings with children - was upbeat. "We have a document the world and its children can be proud of," Bellamy said, noting that it was the participation of young people themselves in the Special Session that likely had the greatest impact on world leaders.
She listed the accomplishments of the week:
· A strong outcome document setting the agenda for children over the next decade
· A powerful and unanimous statement to the leaders of the world from nearly 400 youth delegates, who held their own debates before joining the adults
· A new partnership to provide better nutrition for children through the fortification of staple foods in developing countries, launched with a $50 million gift from Bill and Melinda Gates
· Individual acts of leadership such as the pledge by Peru's president to cut military spending and re-direct public money to basic services for children
· And a successful global pledge campaign called 'Say Yes for Children," which more than 95 million people supported with pledges to uphold children's rights
"But I think we really made a huge difference by having so many young people as official delegates," Bellamy said, pointing out that children took part in official General Assembly business for the first time in history. "They made an enormous impact on everyone who met with them, from heads of government on down. And they presented a very clear and united view of their aspirations and their expectations. I can't imagine ever going back to summits on children's issues without young people there to represent their own experiences, views, and outlook."
Bellamy also praised the leadership of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who participated throughout the conference and who went out of his way to make the children welcome and to put them at the heart of the United Nations agenda. Bellamy also acknowledged the Bureau of the preparatory process, chaired by Ambassador Patricia Durant of Jamaica, and Bureau members Germany, Bangladesh, Bosnia-Herzogovina, and Mali. She also thanked Hans Schumacher of Germany, who chaired the final negotiations, and the President of the General Assembly, Mr. Han Seung-Soo of South Korea.
"Look, it wasn't always easy, but the governments of the world got where they had to get. They agreed to 21 concrete, time-bound goals for children, and to a basic framework for getting there. That result is the product of an understanding that any lasting progress in the world must begin with investment in children. That underlying truth can now be pursued. Let's get to it."
* * *
For further information, please contact:
Liza Barrie, UNICEF Media Chief, New York (212) 326-7593
Alfred Ironside, UNICEF Media, New York (212) 326-7261
View and order the Special Session video b-roll, including the taped satellite feeds, go to: