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This special issue of The State of the World's Children marks the 50th anniversary year of UNICEF. As such, it aims to fulfil three purposes. First, it proposes an agenda against war as a vital step to prevent and alleviate the suffering of children in armed conflict. We start with children in war because their contemporary predicament is both overwhelming and inescapable.

Second, it reviews the efforts of UNICEF in its first half-century to cope with children submerged not only in conflict but also in the silent emergencies of poverty and preventable disease. And it shows how many governments and communities, with UNICEF support, have made great progress in improving the health, nutrition and education of their children.

Third, it retains the annual presentation of carefully assembled statistical data, so that the progress towards the year 2000 goals, adopted at the 1990 World Summit for Children, can be readily assessed.

I believe these three parts provide a good sense of where UNICEF has been, of its current priorities, and, to the extent possible, of where it is headed.

Ideas and knowledge have changed and expanded dramatically over the past 50 years. Accordingly, so has our ability to make children's lives better. The global community, almost unanimously, has committed itself to doing just that, as expressed in the words and ethos of the World Summit Declaration and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

With renewed commitment, we shall work for the day when the Declaration and the Convention are transformed from articles of faith into expressions of reality for the lives and hopes of the world's children.

This is also my first State of the World's Children report as Executive Director, and I want to honour my remarkable predecessor, James P. Grant. With his indomitable and generous spirit, he moved us all towards a better world for children. I am sure the evidence of progress in many areas of children's lives would have pleased him, as would our pledge to promote the Anti-war Agenda set forth in this report.

Carol Bellamy

Executive Director, UNICEF

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