Dr. Norberto LIWSKI
Secretary of State, President of the National Council for Children, Adolescents and Family

on the occasion of the Special Session of the General Assembly on Children

New York,
8 May 2002

Mr. President
of the United Nations General Assembly

In the first place, I would like to convey to the participants in this General Assembly Special Session on Children the warm and brotherly greetings of the Constitutional President of the Argentine Republic, Dr. Eduardo Alberto DUHALDE, and his wife, Mrs. Hilda Beatriz González de Duhalde.

It would be inconsistent and unacceptable to consider the evolution of the status of children and teenagers in my country since the 1990 World Summit if we did not recognize that we are facing the most difficult times in our democratic history.

It is worth while remembering that just over one hundred days ago social and political tensions reached a peak. The whole world witnessed acts of social violence and wantonness that caused the loss of human lives and created the risk of social disintegration.

The institutional strength and the unwavering democratic calling of the Argentine people, however, made possible the restoration of governance. From the strict observance of the national Constitution, the Argentine people have built a transition government based on the goals of national unity and salvation.

My country is going through the most serious economic and social crisis in its contemporary history. This seriousness can be seen, inter alia, in the unfair distribution of wealth, in the crisis of a financial sector that does not recognize even a minimal definition of human dignity, and a suffocating external debt.

This matter, together with the existence of a leadership that in many cases is being hectored by a society that expects transparency and a vocation of serving, has had a traumatic impact on millions of families.

For them, unemployment and underemployment are the engines of an accelerating process of social exclusion and weakening of the links and roles within the family.
In my country, the status of the children and teenagers who live in those families is the most dramatic and undisguised face of the crisis.

They are the most visible victims of the current emergency. And we know that, should this situation continue, we will jeopardize the future of our country for generations to come.

In these matters, we face truly structural problems. These are very complex problems to solve, and they have cumulative effects.

Currently six out of every ten Argentine children grow and develop under the level of poverty. About one and a half million teenager are excluded from education and work. Both groups show signs of high social vulnerability. Owing to the lack of support and advocacy, the conduct of teenagers frequently leads to conflict with the criminal law. We will use every endeavour to integrate these sectors with active policies, instead of turning to simple advances on criminal law

In today's Argentina we can also see:
- Pockets of child malnutrition;
- The early entrance into labor practices with high psycho physical risk;
- The existence of signs of wasting and dropping out of the Mandatory School Basic Cycle;
- The victimization of boys and girls in situations of sexual abuse and subjection to child pornography;
- The victimization in networks of distribution of illicit drugs, with consumption and addiction;
- The persistency of the factors that cause child mortality indicates that 60 percent of those deaths are preventable;
- Teenage mothers and fathers, who are vulnerable in the exercise of their rights to the family link and to the identity of their children;
- And, lastly, the persistency of children who disappeared during the last military dictatorship, and the abduction of children currently within and outside our borders.

Mr. President,

These problems are a new and hurting reality that for the Government that 1 represent here become are a formidable challenge that drives us to implement innovative lines of action.

They entail active social policies, based on the exercise of the rights emerging from the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the recognition of the participation of the NGOs

When evaluating how we are reaching the goals established in the 1990 World Summit for Children, the World Declaration and the Plan of Action, I think that it is important to underline the following five positive aspects:
- The national average of indicators of child mortality reduction was higher than the planned goal.

The child mortality rate, however, is still double than the levels seen in the Latin American countries with the lowest rates, such as Chile, Cuba and Costa Rica, that shows important differences by subregions.
- After the enactment of the Federal Education Act, our country started a great effort in order to develop a process of wide inclusion in the school system, extension of the Mandatory Basic Cycle, and enhancement of the education quality.

The current economic crisis, however, jeopardizes all those accomplishments, due to the continuous increase in the rate of dropouts.
- At the legislative level, in 1990, with the unanimous vote of al! the political representations, Congress adopted Act No. 23,849, incorporating the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, and reaffirming the recognition of the rights of children from the moment of conception.
- In 1994 the International Convention of the Rights of the Child was incorporated into the Argentine Constitution in the conditions of its ratification by our country.
- The Argentine Parliament has enacted another set of norms with specific efficacy, but for them to enter into full effect, the relevant regulations have yet to be enacted. That is the case, for example, of the National Act on the Identification of the Newborn.

There still are, however, pending matters. Among them, the enactment of a system of comprehensive protection of the rights of boys, girls and teenagers.

Argentina is determined to overcome complex and deep social shortfalls. The national social emergency requires acts of justice and reparation from the State bodies; especially immediate answers.

Those answers must be immediate and transparent. And there must be capability for decision making and the management of the scarce resources.

This is why it has been proposed to strengthen the integration with the civil society in order to diagnose and solve the problems. In this way, we will be able to promote a consensus that will give sense, sustainability and transcendence to this effort of social healing and national salvation.

The principal lines of action for children and teenagers can be summarized by the following axes:
- Commitment to the federal calling and presence;
- Participation in civil society and churches;
- Strengthening of the family;
- Strengthening of the activities in the axis of advocacy and protection;
- A higher profile for the national setting devoted to the public policies on children, teenagers and family;
- Promoting and consolidating the full compliance with the Convention of the Rights of the Child.

In that sense, we fully coincide with the three main goals of the Special Session, characterized by their universality and integral nature: starting life in better conditions; guaranteeing the quality of education; and widening the participation of children and teenagers in their communities.

Mr. President,

To conclude this message, I wish to go back to the economic and social crisis in my country. I know that we will be able to identify there the signs that, even today in the midst of misery, show possibilities and opportunities for the changes and transformations that will lead us to a "world more fit for children".

As a spontaneous and immediate response to the crisis, we should highlight the commitment and mobilization of the civil society and different kinds of organizations, which with solidarity have deployed through the country networks of support, assistance and advocacy of the rights of boys, girls, and teenagers.

On the other hand, the initiative of launching a Dialogue among Argentinians is creating the opportunity to recreate a new and fundamental national consensus.

The Argentine Catholic Church has been invited as a ponderable witness and, in the words of the President of the Episcopal Conference, "a space is created, so that society may meet without confrontation".

It is also fair to underline the valuable input brought to this dialogue by the United Nations Development Programme.

In conclusion, I would like to underline that just as our delegation, based upon its own conviction in the legal, ethical and value fields, will contribute to the construction of a consensus among the nations of the World in order to achieve a world program in favor of the children and adolescents, we also call upon all the sectors of the international community to reinforce their commitment to boys, girls, adolescents and their families who have to face greater risks and vulnerabilities than those in Argentina.

Argentina, today more than ever, needs the world in order to be able to start healing wounds that the economic crisis opened up in its social texture. Argentina needs understanding, solidarity and help from the world to which it never turned its back.

His Holiness John Paul II called upon the powerful of the world to "Globalize Hope". In concordance with this mandate, President Eduardo Duhalde has suggested to put Argentina back on its feet and start walking into the direction of peace that its children deserve.

By promoting development, social justice and the full exercise of the rights established in the Convention of the Rights of the Child, Argentina will achieve the goals of universal humanity and will again become the country in which, as one of its former Presidents said, "the only privileged are the children".