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East Asia and Pacific countries discuss measures to address economic crisis on children

SINGAPORE, 6 January 2009 — At the start of a new year mired by a worsening economic crisis, key leaders in East Asia and the Pacific began discussions today on how best to protect children by maintaining or scaling up social spending despite tightening budgets.

More than 150 academics, policy advisors, finance ministers and senior officials, convened by UNICEF, shared lessons learned from the 1997-98 crisis and good policy practices in health, nutrition, education and family income maintenance.

 “The Convention on the Rights of the Child, which all countries in the region have ratified, is clear. Children, it says, should have the first call on resources, especially in times of economic challenge,” said Anupama Rao Singh, UNICEF East Asia and the Pacific Regional Director.

UNICEF is working with national governments in the region, including the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, where the two-day conference is being held. The close collaboration between UNICEF and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs under the Singapore Cooperation Programme has made it possible for senior government policy advisors and officials from East Asia and the Pacific to attend the conference.  

The global financial crisis is amplifying the effects of the food and fuel price crises, seriously challenging the abilities of families to cope and of children to thrive. At this moment when women and children are most vulnerable, governments are faced with reduced revenues and hard choices.

“Our choices now will determine whether we restore the rapid development of this region or let decades of social progress towards the Millennium Development Goals erode,” said Indonesian Finance Minister, Dr. Sri Mulyani Indrawati.  

Household income is falling, forcing some parents to remove children from school and some to enter the labour force too early. Reduced food consumption, particularly among poor families, can lead to stunted physical growth, and decreased intellectual capacity of children. These, in turn, damage national economic growth.

“The economic crisis has major implications for countries' economic and social resilience, and for children given their added vulnerabilities. We must not compromise their future, even as we deal with the current economic challenges. This conference is timely given these realities,” Dr, Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports said.

“Evidence from the 1997-98 crisis will help us support our governments to shape the best policies,” said Dean of Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, Dr. Kishore Mahbubani.


UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For more  information contact:

Lely Djuhari, UNICEF East Asia and Pacific, + 66 89 223 1432, +62 811 802 338, ldjuhari@unicef.org
Madeline Eisner UNICEF East Asia and Pacific, +66 8170 146 26, meisner@unicef.org
Preeti Dawra, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, NUS, +65 8125 1015, preeti.dawra@nus.edu.sg
Maxie Chopard, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, + 65 6379 8362, Maxie_CHOPARD@mfa.gov.sg




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