Hon. Hamilton Lashley
Minister of Social Transformation

at the
Twenty-Seventh Special Session of the General Assembly on Children

8 May 2002

 Mr. President, the progress of Nations today is being measured internationally, not merely by the old methods of GDP or GNP statistics, but by the quality of life. In order to improve human development therefore, we must improve the quality of life for all persons including children. Barbados applauds the United Nations for hosting this Special Session, to review the progress made over the past 10 years in enhancing the lives and protecting the rights of children and youth.

Barbados' national socio-economic development programming has always prioritized human development, particularly the development of children and women. This is evidenced by its signature and ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in October 1990, and the maintenance of high standards in the provision of social services. We plan to further emphasize children's rights by launching the Global Movement for Children later this month; and will continue to develop policies, programmes and legislation to systematically address deficiencies in our service delivery.

 I am proud to say that our national programming fully revolves around the United Nations Agenda for Children. The fundamental principles of the Convention, including those for protection of fundamental rights and freedoms, have always been embodied in our Constitution and Social Legislation. The Status of Children Reform Act dispensed with the concept of illegitimacy and legislated equality under the Law for all children. Protection of the child's best interest is featured in our legislation and national childcare programming. National policy is geared towards continuous improvement of the standard of care and elimination of abuse and neglect. There are complementary NGO programmes on good parenting and conflict resolution and provision for anonymous reporting of offences against children.

While child labor is not a Barbadian phenomenon, the Government has ratified ILO Conventions 138 and 182 and will ensure that children are not exploited within the working environment.

In 1997, Barbados embarked on an expanded program of immunization against the childhood diseases of Diphtheria, Pertussis Tetanus and Measles and coverage of over 90% has been achieved in these areas. Polio has also been eradicated from the Caribbean sub-region since 1994.

There is universal access to safe drinking water, piped to individual homes or shared community stand-pipes. A desalination plant became fully operational in 1999, further improving access to adequate supplies of safe drinking water.

Traditionally, Barbados has had a sound educational system which facilitates social mobility. The Education Act of 1983 guarantees free public education to tertiary level, and compulsory education between the ages of 5 and 16. The Act provides for School Attendance Officers to enforce compulsory school attendance.

The Government of Barbados is cognizant of the benefits of early childhood education and there is 80% coverage of 3 year olds in government and private day care centers. The Ministry of Social Transformation's National Disabilities Unit was also established in December 1997, specifically to promote the social integration and empowerment of persons with disabilities.

Barbados recognizes the overwhelming adverse effects of poverty on development. In response to this challenge, a Poverty Eradication Bureau and Poverty Eradication Fund have been established.

HIV/AIDS, another emerging challenge, is impacting negatively on the population aged 15 to 45 years. The Government of Barbados has established a National Commission for HIV/AIDS management. Its main thrust is public education and the assumption of responsibility for the program by the Office of the Prime Minister, clearly demonstrates the government's commitment.

Ongoing public health and nutrition education is focused on prevention and control. The Ministries of Health and Education, Youth Affairs and Sports also promote the development and adoption of healthy choices and lifestyles for all ages. Complementary NGO strategies such as a Healthy Lifestyles Extravaganza and itinerant aerobic teams, further educate citizens generally and parents in particular, about their children's health needs.

The breakdown of the extended family structure has deprived communities of accessible informal care, traditionally provided by grandmothers, neighbors, and others. Parents' reliance has shifted to the formal care sector, with residential and day care services provided primarily by government through the Child Care Board, complemented by private operators and NGOs.

Barbados has also embarked on an island-wide school based Edutech Program and a Community Technology Program, both directed at ensuring that Barbadians are all afforded the opportunity to bridge the technological divide, and that parents are better equipped to deal with challenges generated by the new technology.

Mr. President, one of today's greatest threats to the safety and well-being of children is the threat of global war and border disputes. These shatter millions of young lives and have also produced the spectre of child soldiers bearing illicit arms.

 On behalf of Barbados, I would like to conclude with a plea for the promotion of world peace and for the international community to strive to halt armed conflict wherever it occurs. Only through peace, can we ensure a world fit for children. Children are our future.

Let no obstacle be greater than the cause.