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The United Nations General Assembly’s Special Session on Children in September 2001 will indeed be a special session in several ways. It will have the potential to shape the lives of children and adolescents throughout the world. It will assemble leaders from governments and non-governmental organizations, as well as children and adolescents, in a model of wide participation and partnership that must be the way of the future in the work of the UN. It will agree on a plan of action that must spur the international community to take the steps needed to realize the rights of every child.

Today, millions of children lead safer, healthier and fuller lives than they did a decade ago — before the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989 and the World Summit for Children in 1990. The same can be said of the progress of millions of women since the adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in 1979. And yet too many children and women still live outside the protection of society. Too many still see their rights abused or threatened.

The Special Session will review progress in meeting the commitments made at the World Summit for Children and the obligations entered into with the Convention on the Rights of the Child — the most widely and rapidly ratified human rights treaty in history. It promises to be a sobering review. But even more, the Session will look to the future. It will set specific, time-bound targets for the achievement of our main objective over the next decade: protecting and fulfilling the rights of all children and women.

The Session’s agenda has already inspired a remarkable debate around three desired outcomes: every child should have the best possible start in life; every child should receive a good-quality basic education; and every child should have the opportunities to develop his or her full potential and contribute to society in meaningful ways. The State of the World’s Children 2001 highlights the first of our goals — the best possible start in life for every child, without exception.

The preparations for the Special Session have been imbued with a sense of purpose that promises to carry through to the gathering itself. Nearly 1,000 participants from governments, the UN family and international and national civil society have been engaged. Children and adolescents have been among the clearest and most passionate voices.

At local, national and regional levels, these young people have added their perspectives to the assessments of how the world has lived up to its obligations to children. They have spoken about their own role as agents for change. Many of them will come to New York in September 2001 to take part in the Special Session itself. I hope they will be listened to carefully. I hope that for them, and for the rest of the world’s children, we will make the Special Session of 2001 the best possible start to this new millennium.

Kofi A. Annan
Secretary-General of the United Nations    



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