World Summit for Children
A little more than a decade ago, the largest group
of world leaders ever convened at that time sat down
at an immense circular table at the United Nations and
discussed, in frank and impassioned terms, their responsibilities
to children - and about the future.
As the high-level conversation at the World Summit for Children
showed, no two subjects are more intertwined. And there was no more
dramatic affirmation of the centrality of children to our common
future than the Summit's adoption of a set of specific, time-bound
goals to ensure the survival, protection and development of children
in the 1990s.
Proclaiming that "there can be no task nobler than giving
every child a better future" (see World
Declaration on the Survival, Development and Protection of Children,
para. 25), the 71 heads of State and Government and 88 other senior
delegates promised to protect children and to diminish their suffering;
to promote the fullest development of the human potential of every
child; and to make them aware of their needs, their rights and their
opportunities. "We do this", the leaders declared, "not
only for the present generation, but for all generations to come"
Declaration, para. 25).
A better world for children
In adopting the World Declaration on the Survival, Protection and
Development of Children and Plan of Action
for Implementing the Declaration (A/45/625, annex), world leaders
promised something else of immense importance: that they would always
put the best interests of children first - in good times and bad,
whether in peace or in war, in prosperity or economic distress.
For those who were in New York in September 1990, the World Summit
for Children was a transcendent experience. It was heightened by
the fact that the Convention
on the Rights of the Child (General Assembly resolution 44/25),
adopted in 1989, had entered into force just weeks before, ratified
more quickly and by more countries than any previous human rights
The dreams and aspirations of a better world for children were
embodied in the Summit goals for child survival and development
which, taken together, represented the clearest and most practical
expression of much of what the Convention on the Rights of the Child
Ambitious but feasible
The World Declaration and Plan of Action set out an ambitious but
feasible agenda and specified that it be implemented
by the year 2000. To this end, the Summit called for
a series of actions at the national and international
levels to support the achievement of 27
specific goals relating to children's survival,
health, nutrition, education and protection.
The Summit agenda was influenced by resolutions endorsed by the
World Health Assembly, the World Conference on Education for All
and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Executive Board,
as well as by policy statements by United Nations bodies, the Bretton
Woods institutions and international non-governmental organizations.
This broad ownership was to prove crucial in the follow-up process,
as well as in the reaffirmation of the Summit goals by the other
major Summits and Conferences of the 1990s.
Follow-up and monitoring
It is often said that in many United Nations conferences, goals
are ever set but never met, and that commitments on paper are rarely
translated into action on the ground.
In a decade spanned by a succession of United Nations development
summits and conferences, the World Summit for Children stands out
not only because it was the first major gathering but because its
systematic follow-up procedures
and rigorous monitoring
have left an indelible imprint - and more than a decade later, the
list of Summit follow-up actions continues to grow.
These include the submission, by some 155 countries, of national
programmes of action (NPAs) aimed at implementing the Summit goals;
many have prepared subnational action plans as well. Over 100 countries
have conducted monitoring surveys with the capacity-building support
and active involvement of many United Nations agencies, multilateral
and bilateral donors, universities, research institutions and NGOs.
Responding to the call of the Summit, a record 192 countries have
now ratified or signed the Convention on
the Rights of the Child. Moreover, the Secretary-General has
reported periodically to the General Assembly on progress towards
achieving the Summit goals, including a major mid-decade
review in 1996. And each year since the Summit, UNICEF has prepared
progress reports on the implementation of Summit goals and disseminated
them through its flagship publications, The Progress
of Nations and The State of the World's Children.
In 2000, a wide-ranging end-decade review process culminated in
the preparation of substantive and comprehensive national progress
reports by more than 130 countries. The breadth and quality of this
follow-up response have greatly informed and enriched the SG's
report on end-decade review, and made it possible to form objective
assessments of the decade's achievements, its setbacks, and the
lessons learned for the future.
(Source: Paragraphs 1-15, We the Children: End-decade review of
the follow-up to the World Summit for Children. Report
of the Secretary-General.)