New York, 5 May 2002 -
I am delighted to see so many young people here today for this historic event, in what is already shaping up to be a historic week for children - and for the world. So on behalf of the United Nations Children's Fund, I extend a warm welcome to all of you.
In two days, the General Assembly will convene its long-planned Special Session on Children. Never have so large a number of children and young people from all over the world been invited to participate in a United Nations conference. Children will be part of the official delegations attending the Special Session. And children will address the plenary of the UN General Assembly.
You have played a vital role in the process that has made this possible and that is bringing leaders from all over the world to New York on Wednesday. This process has just one goal: to create a world fit for children. It began back in 1990, with the World Summit for Children. At that meeting, world leaders adopted a set of goals that would give every child a better life and a more promising future. At the Special Session, we will take a close look at what has been achieved over the past eleven years. We will discuss the lessons learned. And we will set a new agenda to ensure the well-being of every child.
Children and young people like yourselves have taken part in many of the national and regional activities that have brought us here. You have taken part in the preparatory meetings, discussing future goals. You have worked hard to ensure that those who make decisions on behalf of children heed the views of children. I have had the privilege to attend a number of these meetings over the last two years and have seen, at first hand, the great impact you have had on these discussions. Many of you have taken part in opinion polls, telling us what you think about your lives. And millions of you have shown your support for the Say Yes campaign, voting on the action needed to build a world fit for children. Since the campaign was launched a year ago, more than 84 million people have pledged their support, making it one of the biggest - if not the biggest - pledging campaigns of all time.
You have shown, time after time, the value of your participation in meetings concerned with your welfare. UNICEF is doing more than ever to ensure that you take part in the meetings that directly affect you. Many adults, including world leaders, now realize that improving child well-being is impossible without involving children - without listening to YOU.
Many of you already work hard to promote child rights and work in your communities to better the lives of your fellow children and young people. We need to hear from you, and to learn from you.
This Forum will give you the chance to share your experiences, your ideas and your opinions on exactly how we are going to reach the goals outlined in the outcome document and on what your own role could be in all of this. I encourage you to share your messages, not only with those of us here at the Special Session, but with your friends, your families, your communities and with decisions makers when you get home.
I hope that this Forum helps you to prepare for the Special Session itself, increasing your understanding, your knowledge and your confidence. I look forward to listening to some of you at the plenary of the Special Session, at the round tables and at the many other events that will take place this week.
I wish you every success and a great stay in New York.