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Address to the Security Council meeting on Children in Armed Conflict

New York, 5 May 2002 -

Mr Chairman, delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

My name is Jose. I was born and brought up in East Timor. I am sure that many of you are quite familiar with our recent history. I would like to use my short time with you today to explain my own part in that history and also some things that I hope we can learn from that.

I think and I think again and try to look for the answer in my past experience of the war in my beloved country, East Timor, during September 1999. I was at my school at that time. The directors of my school, myself and ten of my friends were taking care of many people who came to shelter at my school, St. Joseph College High School. There were about 4,000 refugees.

We saw that everyone around us was afraid. And we tried to do the best for the refugees. Very strange, and it seems terrible when we found there was no child playing, no singing, there was only silence or guns. We began to play the guitar and to sing together to help us forget.

Today in East Timor, I am a journalist at my school. I have learned so many things from talking to children, especially street children. There are still many children with no opportunity to get education. Some of them spend their time on the street to sell newspapers, CDs and other things to get money. Some children just put out their hands to ask for money. The money that they get might be used to pay for their school or they give it to their parents, but some of them are forced to give the money to those people that threaten them on the streets. The children do not know anything about war, but they are the victims of the war and even though it is over, some of these children still have to face violence against themselves through the things that they have never done. Most of the children around the world were born to give their smile that will bring happiness. But many of them were also born only to see and to face the suffering given to them by those who create war.

On this 20th of May 2002, East Timor will celebrate independence; it will stand on its own for the first time in over 500 years. A great day for East Timorese to start a new life and to rebuild again our country that had been burnt down. When East Timor joins the UN this month, the Convention on the Rights of the Child will be the first convention ratified by the new government. I hope that children's rights will be given attention by the government and by everyone who is responsible for children.

For the future of Timor, we want a Timor that is clean, beautiful and shiny, and where every person's dignity and human rights are respected, not a Timor that is dirty, rough and hypocritical. East Timorese children, including the children living on the streets, have their dreams to become a doctor, an engineer, a President. But they do not have the opportunity to get an education to reach for their dreams. What we need from you is your help to keep our peace and unity so that all children in East Timor can get an education and live in a peaceful country. No more war.

I realise I am very lucky to have this chance today to represent children, not only from East Timor but also from Kosovo, Bosnia, Afghanistan or in other countries in armed conflict. Because I am here for the Special Session on Children, today is my chance to ask you, very powerful people, on behalf of all children, not just those of East Timor, to please ensure that our rights are respected. I think we have the laws and conventions, but we are not so good at doing what we say. I am sure that only when children's rights are properly respected and children can grow up in safety and peace will those children be able to live in peace together when they are adults - throughout the world. Please give us that chance.

Thank you.