UN General Assembly Special Session on Children



Her Excellency Begum Khaleda Zia
Prime Minister of the People's Republic of Bangladesh and Leader of Bangladesh Delegation

New York, 08-10 May 2002


Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim
Mr. President, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Eight months ago a terrible tragedy struck the city of New York. The unprecedented terrorist attacks of September 11 last year resulted in the death of thousands of innocents including many from Bangladesh. We shared the pain and sorrow of New York in the aftermath of these attacks. We joined global efforts to ensure that such tragedies do not happen again. This session of UN General Assembly, devoted to children, is a unique opportunity for us to come out of the post 11 September despair. This is also a fitting occasion to signal our renewed commitment to build a brave new world dedicated to our children.

We can have no other better objective.
Our children are our greatest assets, source of our joy and the future of our nations, countries and the world.

Mr. President,

The task before this special session is simple yet challenging. In 1990, during the World Summit on Children, we committed ourselves to specific goals. They relate to children's survival, development and protection rights. We must reflect on where we stand in achieving these goals. Are our children better off today than they were 10 years ago? If not, we must ask, what more needs to be done to improve the condition of our children.

Mr. President,

The nations of the world have certainly progressed much during the last ten years. Like other countries, we in Bangladesh have also continued in our effort to fulfill our commitment to children's rights. Let me enumerate some of the concrete actions we have taken in this regard

-    Bangladesh is proud of its National Plan of Action for Children and the work of the National Council overseeing its implementation. Survival of children, their protection against killer diseases and improvement in the nutritional status of mother and child are important priorities of this plan.

-    We have significantly increased budget allocations for primary, secondary and girl's education, primary health care and social development. These directly help children. We have been able to substantially increase enrollment of children in primary schools. We are particularly proud of the parity achieved in girls' enrollment. We have recently undertaken to provide free tuition and scholarships to girls upto the higher secondary level of education. These will have a positive impact on the age of marriage and health of women and children.

-    Our country in the last decade has achieved a substantial improvement in 'immunization, control of diarrheal disease, vitamin "A" supplementation, iodized salt consumption and nutrition. Through the Bangladesh . Integrated Nutrition Programme we have demonstrated that severe malnutrition can be reduced among children under two years of age within a short period of time. This programme will be vastly expanded in the days to come.

-    We have adopted a multi-pronged approach to ensure safe motherhood.

-     Bangladesh has continued to work committedly to stop trafficking in children, reduce child labour and implement programmes for disabled children.

-     Our government has undertaken projects on birth registration, early childhood development and children having problems with law.

-     Bangladesh is one of the few countries in the world to have a separate Ministry exclusively devoted to the welfare of women and children.

-     At the regional level, we are a part of the Kathmandu understanding on children. We have also signed the SAARC Convention on South Asian Regional Arrangements for Promotion of Child Welfare.

Mr. President,

Our success in these areas, though significant, gives us no reason for complacence. Let us not forget that millions of children still continue to suffer in different parts of the world, including Bangladesh, due to poverty, malnutrition, disease, conflicts and wars.

A few things need our urgent and sustained attention if we are to build on our gains in the last decade. Efforts to eradicate poverty are vital. This must begin with children and parents in the vulnerable groups. Increased investments on health and nutrition of mothers and children are equally important. The nations of the world must also work together to create a non-violent and secure environment for our children. We cannot ignore the need for education of our children specially that of the girl child. Access to continued quality education is vital for our children's welfare. The world, in addition, should remain vigilant against new forms of abuse and exploitation of children and violence against them.

Mr. President,

Concrete measures are required at national, regional and international levels for the achievement of these objectives. We have to work consistently and continuously in support of our children. Children deserve to be at the very center of our development agenda and international cooperation. We must mobilize adequate international resources to supplement national efforts aimed at promoting growth and development of our children. Both the government and the civil society must act across the board, supplement each others' resources, and make a common cause to help children.

This is the commitment we are expected to make during this special session-a commitment which will enable our children to be secure and happy and realize their full potentials. You will find Bangladesh in the forefront of efforts to give our children the best possible first start in life. I am confident all of us gathered here will also do the same.

Before I end, on my own behalf and on behalf of my delegation which includes civil society representatives and children, I would like to express my deep appreciation to the organizers of the Special Session for their untiring efforts in finalizing the Outcome Document "A World Fit for Children". I am sure this will provide a point of departure for our future efforts in improving the lot of our children.

I thank you.