End-decade Review: Results
An extensive review process
has taken place at national and regional levels to assess progress
and setbacks in implementation of the World Summit for Children
Declaration and Plan of Action. And in response to a request by
the General Assembly, the Secretary-General has prepared a report
on the implementation of the 1990 Declaration and Plan of Action.
The number and high quality of the reports are encouraging indicators
of the commitment of Member States and members of the United Nations
system to the continued implementation of the Summit
Plan of Action, and ensure the successful outcome of the special
session on children.
The picture that emerges is one of mixed results. There has been
real and significant progress in a number of areas. But there have
also been setbacks, and in some cases, the setbacks have been serious
enough to threaten earlier gains.
- Since the Summit, some 155 countries have adopted National Programmes
of Action to move the agenda for children forward.
- Some 63 countries have achieved the targeted one-third reduction
in mortality among children under the age of five; while over
100 others have cut it by one fifth;
- Deaths of young children from diarrhoeal diseases were reduced
by 50% over the decade, saving as many as a million young lives;
- High and sustained levels of child immunization in most regions
of the world have also continued to save millions of children;
- Polio is on the brink of eradication, with a 99 per cent reduction
in the number of reported cases in the world compared to a decade
- Worldwide, there are more children in school than ever before
- and one result has been a rise in the adult literacy rate, from
75 per cent in 1990 to 79 per cent in 2000;
- And there has been dramatic progress in preventing iodine deficiency
disorders, the world's major cause of mental retardation, against
which 90 million newborn children are now protected every year.
Moreover, thanks to the heightened awareness of child rights stirred
by the Convention on the Rights of the Child - which has been almost
universally ratified - egregious violations of children's rights
are being more systematically exposed, and action is being taken
to overcome them. NGOs and the mass media are also playing an increasingly
active role in drawing public attention to the need for children
to be protected.
Clearly, children now have a much higher profile on the national
and global political agendas. The Security Council itself has taken
up children's issues, particularly that of children and armed conflict.
Yet much more needs to be done.
- Over 10 million children still die each year, often from readily
- An estimated 150 million suffer from malnutrition;
- Over 100 million children are still not in school, and 60 per
cent of them are girls;
- Conflicts killed 2 million children in the past decade and
left many other millions disabled and psychologically traumatized;
- Over 10,000 children are killed or maimed by mines every year;
- Of some 35 million internally displaced persons and refugees
worldwide, about 80 per cent are children and women;
- Children are also the victims of abuse, neglect and exploitation
in rising numbers. For example, the trafficking of children, as
well as women, for sexual exploitation, has reached alarming levels.
An estimated 30 million children are now victimized by traffickers,
who almost invariably go unpunished;
- 250 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 are economically
active, and some 50 to 60 million of them are engaged in intolerable
forms of labour, according to the International
- And the scale of the HIV/AIDS epidemic - which exceeds the
worst-case projections of 1990 - now threatens decades of gains
in child survival and development, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.
In the most affected countries, from half to more than two-thirds
of the 15-years-olds alive today will eventually die of the disease.
Already, AIDS has orphaned more than 13 million children, and
that figure may reach 30 million before the end of the decade.
Regenerating political will
The Special Session on Children must aim at regenerating
political will and commitment in order to address the
remaining challenges and emerging issues affecting the
well being of our children.
The needs and rights of children must be made a priority in all
development efforts; every child must receive the best possible
start in life and a quality basic education. Adolescents must be
given every opportunity to develop their capacities and participate
meaningfully in society.
Compared to what is spent on armaments and luxury consumer items,
the resources needed to provide for the basic needs of children
are modest and affordable. What is required is a decisive shift
in national investments to favour the well being of children. Leaders
at every level of government and civil society must exert the political
will necessary to bring about that shift. And the Special Session
is the time when they must show that they are doing so.
Priorities for action
Four priorities are being proposed for the new decade : promoting
healthy lives; providing quality education; protecting children
from abuse, exploitation and violence; and combating HIV/AIDS and
the risks it poses to children. These are indeed the most urgent
priorities in addressing the needs of children.
And, of course, improving the well being of children also means
a significant leap in human development as a whole. It is children
who will shape the world's future, and it is through them that entrenched
cycles of poverty, exclusion, intolerance and discrimination can
be broken for succeeding generations.
The world has the knowledge, the resources and the strategies to
act. It is no longer a question of what is possible, but of what
is given priority. And there is no issue more important than the
survival and harmonious development of our children.
(Source: Introduction of the report of the Secretary-General,
"We the children," End-decade review of follow-up to the
World Summit for Children, by Louise Fréchette, Deputy Secretary-General
of the United Nations.)