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2002 Photo © UNICEF



IV. The magic of leadership

The global record on meeting the 1990 World Summit goals for children and development is mixed, with children suffering when governments have failed to protect their rights.

© UNICEF/01-0237/Hossain

Former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina (centre) stands amid children and others preparing to release doves in front of the national Parliament building at the launch of the 'Say Yes for Children' campaign in Bangladesh in April 2001.

But, when leaders have made children the centre of their policies and practices, the results have been almost magical.

In 1961, for example, when Julius Nyerere became the first Prime Minister of the United Republic of Tanzania, the country had an adult illiteracy rate of 85 per cent, only two trained engineers and 12 doctors. When he retired as President in 1985, Tanzania had a 91 per cent literacy rate, thousands of engineers, doctors and teachers, and nearly every child was in school.

Costa Rica has long invested in children. In 1948, President José Figueres abolished the army. With one stroke of the pen, military expenditures became the Education Ministry budget. This commitment to human needs has continued under all administrations since, whether politically right, left or centre. Costa Rica now has one of the best social indicators of the region.

Corporate leadership has also made a difference. In Cambodia, for instance, Mr. Bun Barang, one of the largest salt producers in the country, has agreed to iodize 60 per cent of his production in 2001 and 100 per cent in 2002. This act will save millions of children from disabilities.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, 23 leading intellectuals, including Chilean novelist Isabel Allende and Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano, challenged governments and citizens throughout the region to come together to form a 'Social Pact' for its 192 million children and adolescents.

The former South African President, Nelson Mandela, the epitome of leadership, and Graça Machel, former Minister of Education in Mozambique and advocate for children affected by armed conflict, have called for a global leadership initiative on behalf of children. "The future for our children lies in leadership," they have written, "and the choices leaders make."


For additional information on topics mentioned in the text, click on the links below:
Latin American Manifesto in support for a Social Pact for Children
H.E. Nelson Mandela
Ms. Graça Machel

Previous: The Global Movement for Children: 'Say Yes for Children'

Next: Acts of leadership



'In brief'

Leadership from 1990- 2000
The United Nations Special Session on Children
The Global Movement for Children: 'Say Yes for Children'
The magic of leadership
Acts of leadership
Leadership challenges
Good for children, good for the world
It takes a leader to listen
The costs of children's silence
Every nation has a role to play