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News note

Leaders urge East Asia and Pacific to do their utmost for children

BALI, 5 May 2003 – President of Indonesia, H.E. Megawati Sukarnoputri, opened today the Sixth East Asia and Pacific Ministerial Consultation on Children calling on all nations of the world to work hard for the protection and well-being of children.

The data is depressing, she said and noted that, globally more than 10 million children die annually before they even celebrate their fifth birthday.

Over the three-day Consultation, Ministers and senior government officials from more than 20 countries will map out a regional plan for children for the coming decade. The meeting, which runs through 7 May, brings together over 200 participants including, senior officials UNICEF, other UN agencies, donor governments, non-governmental organizations, and young people from across the region.

Speaking on the opening day, UNICEF Executive Director, Carol Bellamy, noted that this was the first high-level conference on child well-being since the UN Special Session on Children in New York almost exactly a year ago. She stressed the importance of partnerships and participation by civil society as being key elements for “rapid and sustainable levels of progress in implementing the Special Session goals”.

“The East Asia and Pacific region has succeeded in enlisting a vast and diverse number of civil society leaders, parliamentarians and young people,” said Bellamy, adding that the region had already demonstrated the returns that investments in children can generate. “Consistent investment in the social sector and in children has strengthened the region’s ability to weather economic and social crises – and any drop in investment in children would be a step back,” said Bellamy.

President Megawati endorsed the UN strategies and programmes for the protection and welfare of children, saying that, “we do our outmost to carry out the programmes.” She added that children were not just numbers and that Indonesia looked constructively on children rather than treating them as a burden.

In addition to country statements on the situation of children and women in their countries, the Ministerial Consultation features presentations and discussions of some of the major development issues facing the region today, including the HIV/AIDS epidemic, maternal mortality, commercial sexual exploitation of children and child trafficking, nutrition, and education.

On the participation of young people, Carol Bellamy referred to their part in the success of the Special Session. She said: “I see the same youthful energy here – and I am eager to hear what the young people with us have to say, not only because their insight and unique perspective is a vital component of our work here, but because, in participating and making their voices heard, young people remind us again of the immeasurably rich resource they represent.”

President Megawati said children were not just numbers and that Indonesia looked constructively on children rather than treating them as a burden.

The UNICEF Executive Director highlighted two areas of particular concern in the region – the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the commercial sexual exploitation of children – and urged a concerted effort to tackle these problems.

“All the hard-earned gains for children in such areas as poverty reduction, education and nutrition will be swept away if we do not confront the HIV/AIDS threat with all our resources, courage and commitment,” she said.

Bellamy noted the region’s extraordinarily high rate of child trafficking – largely for commercial sexual exploitation. More needs to be done, she said, to combat this business, which must “rank among the worst violations of child rights in our world.”

President Megawati said that economic and social pressure and in some instances wars have caused many children to become victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking.


Note to Editors:

Media opportunities during the meeting include a pledge signing ceremony where delegates will sign a statement drawn up by the child delegates to the meeting, the Youth Leadership Awards, and a closing day press conference featuring the UNICEF Executive Director, the Indonesian Minister of Health, and the UNICEF Regional Director.

On May 6, UNICEF will release two publications. “Towards a Region Fit for Children” and “A Future for all our Children” look at the challenges facing children in the region, with the latest facts and figures. A press release will be issued.

On May 7, delegates will adopt the “Bali Consensus”, which contains the development agenda for the region’s children in the coming years. The official adoption of the Bali Consensus will be announced at a press conference on the 7th. . A press release will be issued.

A Video News Release (VNR) containing highlights of the meeting will be downloadable from the APTN video news wire. Feed times are: 17:15 – 17:30 GMT Wednesday 7 May and 03:45 - 04:00 GMT Thursday 8 May. The VNR will include a variety of pictures from the 3-day meeting, with key soundbites from those attending and UNICEF pictures which illustrate the topics under discussion.

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For more information, please contact:

John Budd, UNICEF Media, Tel: (0811) 936 437
Patrick McCormick, UNICEF Media, Tel: (661) 906-0813
Kendartanti Subroto, UNICEF Media, Tel: (0815) 883 0800




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