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Photo: Kurdish girl. Iraq, 1997. Copyright Sebastiao Salgado/Amazonas
Photo: Kurdish girl. Iraq, 1997. Copyright Sebastiao Salgado/Amazonas

This page is background information, last updated in May 2002 and still available for reference. For the latest on the Special Session on Children, please go to the Special Session index.

About the Special Session | Secretary-General's report | Convention on the Rights of the Child | World Summit for Children | Follow-up actions | Monitoring progress | End-decade review results | Global Movement for Children



About the Special Session

The Special Session on Children, to be held 8-10 May 2002, is an unprecedented meeting of the UN General Assembly dedicated to the children and adolescents of the world. It will bring together government leaders and Heads of State, NGOs, children's advocates and young people themselves at the United Nations in New York in 2002. The gathering will present a great opportunity to change the way the world views and treats children.



There is again strong support on the part of Member States and civil society to make the Special Session a landmark event. As of 20 March 2002, 72 Heads of State and/or Government have confirmed their participation in the rescheduled Special Session. Many more confirmations are expected in the coming weeks.

UN agencies are also advising of their participation. To date, ILO, WFP, WHO and UNAIDS have confirmed their participation at the level of head of agency.

Wide participation of civil society leaders, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and eminent personalities is also expected. Several leaders from civil society and the private sector, including Mr. Nelson Mandela and Mr. Bill Gates Jr., have already confirmed their participation. The participation of more than 1,400 delegates, representing approximately 800 NGOs, is being confirmed.


A follow-up to the 1990 World Summit for Children

In 1990, at the World Summit for Children, 71 Heads of State and Government and other leaders signed the World Declaration on Survival, Protection and Development of Children and adopted a Plan of Action to achieve a set of precise, time-bound goals.These goals included:

  • Improving living conditions for children and their chances for survival by increasing access to health services for women and children
  • Reducing the spread of preventable diseases
  • Creating more opportunities for education
  • Providing better sanitation and greater food supply; and protecting children in danger.

The commitment to realizing the World Summit goals has helped move children and child rights to a place high on the world's agenda. The Special Session is an important follow-up to the 1990 World Summit.

What does the Special Session on Children hope to accomplish?
  • A review of the progress made for children in the decade since the 1990 World Summit for Children and the World Declaration and Plan of Action.

    The end-of-decade review encompasses national, regional and global processes of analysis. The review charts the achievements and constraints of the last decade. It also identifies lessons learned which serve to inform world leaders as they plan future actions for children.
  • A renewed commitment and a pledge for specific actions for the coming decade.

    World leaders will explore the long-standing challenges of serving and protecting children, as well as the issues emerging in this rapidly changing world. They will be asked to identify strategic solutions to the problems facing children and to commit the critical human and economic resources that will be called for.
Expected outcomes of the Special Session

The Special Session is expected to produce a global agenda with a set of goals and a plan of action devoted to ensuring three essential outcomes:

  • The best possible start in life for all children.
  • A good-quality basic education for all children.
  • The opportunities for all children, especially adolescents, for meaningful participation in their communities.
Partnerships for change

“We cannot waste our precious children. Not another one, not another day. It is long past time for us to act on their behalf.
-- Nelson Mandela and Graša Machel

Nelson Mandela, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and Graša Machel, expert on children in armed conflict, are working with UNICEF to build broad support to change the world for children.

Together they are calling on leaders from government, civil society and the private sector to form a global movement committed to ending discrimination against children and adolescents.

Their hopes:

  • To convince leaders to act
  • To inspire and engage the public
  • To hear what young people have to say.

From there, this message will be carried to the world by the Global Movement for Children. The Global Movement will work to provide a united voice for all those throughout the world working to improve the lives of children.

The aim of the partnership formed at the Special Session is to change the world for children and ensure that every child, without exception, is assured the right to dignity, security and self-fulfillment.

Special Session home

Background information:

Agenda & activities
Preparatory process
Information for NGOs
Child rights in action
How is your country doing?
What you can do
Press centre
Under-18 zone
Contact us
Official coverage (United Nations)


Questions & Answers

To learn more about the Special Session, read this list of Questions and Answers [pdf | word].






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