at the International Conference on Financing for Development
Mr. President, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates:
Eradication of the worst manifestations of poverty is a moral imperative. It is also a practical and affordable possibility - and it starts with investing in children.
Distinguished Delegates, your work here is of crucial importance, for the outcome of this Conference will help determine the scale of a 21st Century agenda for children - an agenda that the General Assembly will take up beginning May 8th, at its Special Session on Children.
Not since the World Summit for Children in September of 1990 will the international community have a more promising opportunity to lay the groundwork for a world that is truly fit for all children. Development is about building that better world - and children and young people are central to the process, both as contributors and beneficiaries. It is their creativity, energy, initiative and adaptability that together are the engine of development - and the future is theirs to inherit. That is why the Special Session on Children is a natural bridge between this Conference on Financing and the World Summit on Sustainable Development that opens in Johannesburg in August.
Mr. President, the economic benefits of investing in children have been extensively documented. Thus, we note our surprise and disappointment that investing in children is nowhere reflected in the FFD outcome document. Investing fully in children today will ensure the well-being and productivity of future generations for decades to come.
By contrast, the physical, emotional and intellectual impairment that
poverty inflicts on children can mean a lifetime of suffering and want
- and a legacy of poverty for the next generation. That is why no effort
to reduce poverty can succeed without first ensuring the well-being of
children and the realisation of their rights.
Mr. President, 56 years ago, in the aftermath of World War II, the General Assembly gave UNICEF an emergency mandate for children - to advocate for the protection of their rights, to help meet their basic needs, and to expand their opportunities to reach their full potential.
That postwar world has changed beyond recognition. The "emergency" in UNICEF's original name is gone. But 56 years later, who can deny that an emergency still exists - one far more daunting in scale and complexity?
Is it not an emergency that hundreds of millions of children are suffering in extreme poverty and inequity, their lives torn apart by the spread of HIV/AIDS; by armed conflict; by external debt; and by gender discrimination and violence, environmental degradation, natural disasters and terrorism?
Is it not an emergency that children under the age of 5, most of them infants, are dying at the rate of nearly 11 million a year, all from easily preventable causes like diarrhoea, measles, and acute respiratory infections?
Is it not an emergency that 170 million children are malnourished, often
at a cost of mental and physical handicaps that can last a lifetime; that
nearly 120 million children, 53 per cent of them girls, never see the inside
of a school; that complications in
For children, poverty is much more than an economic issue. A malnourished
infant, a subjugated girl child, a child soldier - all are effectively
enslaved by poverty and exclusion, deprived not only in terms of well-being
and fulfilment, but also in their right to become responsible and productive
Education, especially for girls, is a prerequisite for attacking poverty. Only education can put young women on a path to economic and social empowerment; help them make the most of their abilities; and provide a means for changing attitudes about violence while promoting equality.
But education will be of little use unless children are prepared for it. There is a growing body of scientific evidence about how a child grows and develops during the first months and years - and it shows clearly that how a child is nurtured and cared for from birth onward has a profound bearing on that child's ability to learn and develop.
Caring for the child also means caring for the mother. For in societies where women have no voice, limited access to resources, no legal protection and no respect, optimal child development, much less survival, is next to impossible.
Distinguished delegates, these and other investments in children and women are not short-term propositions. They require a visionary and long-term commitment.
We know that investments in children and women are extraordinarily productive - but we must be mindful that returns on these investments will materialise only if they are sustained over the long term.
That is why UNICEF urges ministers of finance, from all countries, to take steps to ensure the long-term future of their countries by putting the well-being of children at the heart of the budgetary process.
I believe that the world may finally be ready to alter the course of human development by decisively shifting investments, both governmental and private, to favour child well-being - and all of us here today can help accelerate that shift as we approach the Special Session on Children.
That is why UNICEF has begun working with all our partners to help mobilise a Global Movement for Children - a worldwide campaign to build a shared sense of responsibility for the well-being of every child on earth. For it is only through broad and committed partnerships that we will reach the remaining World Summit goals; achieve the poverty alleviation targets; slow the spread of HIV/AIDS and armed conflict; and establish a comprehensive agenda for children for the first part of this new century.
Distinguished Delegates, your leadership and resolve are crucial if we are to unlock the resources that can make all of this possible.
I wish you every success in your work here in Monterrey.
Statements at the Conference