Introduction of the SGs Report,
We The Children
By Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF
Noon Briefing, New York, 7 June 2001
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am here to introduce the Secretary-Generals
report on children. This important report, entitled
We the Children, is the end-of-decade review
following-up on the 1990 World Summit for Children.
It contains information from 135 countries based on
reviews conducted at the national level. It is, without
a doubt, the most comprehensive study of what is happening
to the worlds children today.
The report contains the best available data on progress
for children over the last decade.
Data is still coming in and there will be revisions
and updates over the next few months. Some numbers may
even change in the final analysis. As you know, we have
been meticulous in collecting as much information about
children as possible and every year since the early
1990s, in our Progress of Nations report, UNICEF has
presented a picture of global efforts to achieve the
goals of the World Summit for Children. The last such
effort was in summer 2000.
I would like to address some of the major findings
of the report. As the Secretary-General has said, The
world has fallen short of achieving most of the goals
of the World Summit for Children not because they were
too ambitious or were technically beyond reach."
I echo that wholeheartedly. The goals were ambitious,
and at the same time reflected what was sorely needed.
The picture that emerges from the data is mixed. There
is good news and bad news.
First the good news. There has been real progress in
a number of areas much more than people tend
to acknowledge in a world fraught with cynicism and
scepticism. The specific goals of the World Summit were
to protect children; to cut mortality rates among children
and mothers, improve access to health care and education,
reduce malnutrition, and provide better water and sanitation.
A major goal was the reduction of the mortality rate
among children under five. In 1990, some 12 million
children in developing countries died from preventable
diseases. Diarrhoea was the number one killer. Then,
three million children died each year from diarrhoeal
causes. Today, that number has been cut by half.
Some 63 countries have achieved the Summit goal of
reducing under five mortality by one-third, and over
100 other countries have reduced rates by one-fifth.
As many as 1 million young lives have been saved.
What about immunization? Routine immunization has remained
high in all regions save one; and new initiatives have
begun to expand immunization programmes. There is the
Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI).
Today, over 100 million children are immunized annually,
saving 3 million lives every year.
In nutrition, the goal of reducing severe and moderate
malnutrition by half among children under five has been
achieved by Latin America and the Caribbean.
There has been a major effort to increase Vitamin A
supplementation in the Least Developed Countries and
especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. We concentrated on
these areas because the need was greatest and action
could make a significant and immediate difference to
children. The widespread provision of this simple remedy
has sharply reduced severe forms of Vitamin A deficiency,
including blindness. The result is that the LDCs
overall have achieved an 80% rate of supplementation
and Sub-Saharan Africa 70%. The use of iodized salt
by 1.5 billion more people today than in 1990 has reduced
the toll of brain damage, retardation or other physical
In education, the goal was to provide universal access
to basic education and completion of primary levels
by at least 80% of primary school children. Worldwide,
millions more children are in school as net enrolment
has increased, outpacing population growth. An added
result has been that there has been a modest rise in
the adult literacy rate.
Sometimes the data does not present the only picture.
For instance, although there has not been a reduction
of maternal deaths in developing countries, we know
that there is now heightened awareness of the causes
and we also know that there has been a increase in the
attendance of skilled doctors , nurses, and midwives
at births in all regions except sub-Saharan Africa.
In the period under review, over 800 million people
have gained access to safe drinking water and an estimated
500 million people to environmental sanitation. In 1990
the figures were l.5 billion people without access to
safe drinking water and 3 billion lacking access to
So there has been progress. The report notes as well
that children are now much higher on the political agenda
than they were 10 years ago. Childrens issues
now figure much more prominently in political and legal
debate in dozens of countries. Here at the UN it is
not just UNICEF that puts children at the centre of
discussion it is also ECOSOC and the General
Assembly as well as all members of the UN family. The
Security Council, as you know, has taken up childrens
issues particularly in the area of armed conflict.
The past decade has also strengthened partnerships
on behalf of children. In the preparatory process for
the Special Session in September, ministerial level
meetings involving the governments of many member states
have taken place in four separate regions. NGOs
have also contributed to the review process which was
highly participatory and included consultation and debate
at high levels in most countries.
These are significant achievements, and they signal
that the goals of the World Summit were realistic. But
the report makes it clear that there is an unfinished
agenda. The message from the report is that in the past
decade, the world has not met its own standards for
children. It has fallen short on many goals, with terrible
The report states: There have been setbacks,
slippage and in some cases real retrogression, some
of it serious enough to threaten earlier gains.
The stark challenges that face us today are that:
- more that 10 million children still die each year
from preventable causes;
- 150 million still suffer from malnutrition;
- 100 million children are still not in school
most of them girls;
- The resources that were promised at the Summit
have yet to materialize and there has been inadequate
investment in social services;
- And the lives of millions continue to be devastated
by hazardous labour, by the sale and trafficking of
women and children; the militarization and prostitution
of children and by general abuse, exploitation and
I also want to highlight three new and broad challenges
that must be overcome if we are to make good on the
worlds promises to children . These are poverty,
civil conflict and HIV/AIDS all of which are compounded
by continuing discrimination against women and girls.
Each of these challenges has grown more pronounced
over the last decade. Hundreds of millions of children
are born into entrenched poverty poverty that
restricts their chances for health and education and
which in turn keeps nations poor. There have also been
more conflicts over the last decade than at any time
since the last world war, most of it highly localized
and highly brutal, making women and children its primary
Then there is the AIDS pandemic. This has exploded,
not only taking millions of lives but weakening whole
societies. There are now 13 million children who have
lost one or both parents to this awful disease . Every
minute 6 people under the age of 25 become infected.
I need not recite statistics to you today but as the
report points out the scale of this disease exceeds
the worst case projection in 1990.
These are indeed daunting challenges. But we are undaunted,
and we will continue to address them and with time we
will succeed in our goal of making this a world fit
for children. It is vitally important that the Special
Session in September galvanise the leadership, political
will, commitment and resources to address these challenges.
As you will note from the positive aspects of the report,
these challenges are not insurmountable. If intention
and determination are in place , we have demonstrated
that we can achieve all our goals for children.
The Special Session is the arena where we hope to get
this message across to world leaders that there is unfinished
business to be completed. One of the ways in which we
hope to convince leaders is through the backing and
support of the worlds citizens. To that end, UNICEF
and a group of partners, led by Nelson Mandela and Graca
Machel, has launched a global sign-up campaign in support
of ten imperatives for children. Now gathering pledges
in more than 100 countries, the campaign aims to demonstrate
that people care about children and want governments
to keep the promises they make to them.
We must never forget that we are our own keepers
history will judge us harshly if we continue to fail
to use our knowledge, our resources and our will to
ensure that each new member of the human family arrives
in a world that respects and protects the invaluable,
irreplaceable years of childhood.
I commend this report to you. It contains compelling
information and by your efforts you can help us to rally
the public support we need now to change the fate of
our children and in fact, the fate of our world. This
is not a one-story report. It is a vivid portrait of
our children -- what we have done for them and how we
have let them down. There are thousands of stories here.