New York, 10 May 2002

Mr. President
Ladies and Gentlemen
And especially you our children and young people

Recently so much has happened in our world, the increasing chaos and confusion have caused tremendous pain and suffering, especially for you our children. Now we must change to make your lives better. For we know that we have not done enough. More is always said than done. You are our most precious gifts and we must start treating you as such.

Just over ten years ago at the World Summit we made a commitment to ensure the survival of our children, to protect them and to do everything possible to improve their development. This was a great moment in human history, for it recognized our commitment to the innocent and more so to the future.

Yes, we can mark this occasion with some celebration, for the Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most universally accepted United Nations declaration. There are 191 countries that have adopted this convention. Also, many of us have appeared before the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child to report and receive its recommendations. But we know that this is not enough, it cannot be enough when every year more than 10 million children die before they reach the age of five, where more than 100 million especially girls do not go to school and more than 60 million are engaged in child labour. This should not be tolerated, we can and we must do better.

Mr. President
We live in a constantly changing world where technological advances and the rapid spread of information and communication are critical components of development. Without these we remain underdeveloped and our children continue to suffer. To remain true to the commitments of the World Summit Declaration on the Rights of the Child we must harness these tools of our time to not only improve the lives of a privileged few, but of all our people.

The Millennium Declaration adopted in 2000 committed us to uphold the dignity of our peoples, especially the children of the world. More specifically, we resolved by 2015, to reduce by half, the number of our poorest people, ensure that children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will get an education and to stop involving children in armed conflict. These are our expectations and we should do our utmost to accomplish them.

For us in Central America and the Caribbean, children form the largest portion of our populations. The development of our nations is inextricably linked to their development. If we are to achieve meaningful sustainable human development our children must go to school, have safe parks and playgrounds, be drug free and be able to reach maturity before becoming teenage parents. The current increase in the number of our children and young people living with and dieing from HIV/AIDS poses an even greater threat to development. As a region we are addressing these issues and are making some progress.

Since 1990 most of the countries in the Caribbean and Central America have signed and ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Most of our children receive immunization vaccinations, we have reduced infant under five mortality rates by more then 20 percent and more of our children are enrolled in school. Our recently adopted Kingston Consensus produced 23 bold recommendations for continuing to improve the lives of our children, and we enthusiastically support these efforts. Yet we find ourselves having to do more with less. With official development assistance decreasing, the demands on our already limited resources increase exponentially. For this reason we continue to appeal to our developed partners to support our efforts to save our children.

Mr. President
Belize's commitment to our children is sacred. We continue to make the necessary changes to improve their lives. Since 1999 the single largest portion of our National Budget is allocated to education. Through the Ministry of Human Development our Government has brought together the NGO Community, educators and government officials to develop our own Plan of Action, which is instituted under the monitoring eye of the National Committee for Families and Children. We continue to support the efforts of the leading NGO in this field, the National Organization for the Prevention of Child Abuse. There is marked improvement in many of the indicators that measure our progress towards achieving the goals of the Convention, for example in 1998 our under five-mortality rate was 24.5 per thousand live births, an improvement of over 50 percent. Recently we enacted new laws for the further protection of our children, making it mandatory to report child abuse and neglect. In addition, we have provided greater protections for children when they are complainants in a court of law.

Our Prime Minister in his recent budget presentation before our national assembly stated that, "Today the children of Belize have more educational opportunities than ever before, young families have a better chance of owning their own homes than ever before. We are investing more in our health care system than ever before." He acknowledges however that we must do a lot more. We must spare no effort to provide greater opportunities for our children and young people. We must be relentless in our efforts to empower them by developing their confidence in the future. We must create alternatives to better equip them to resist destructive influences placed before them by those who seek to profit from their exploitation.

Today my delegation is honored to have with us two beautiful young Belizeans. They are participating in this conference full of hope and expectation. Like the other children among us they are listening carefully to what we are saying. When they return home and gather with their friends at school and in their neighborhood they will speak of what we have done here. They will tell of the many Heads of State and Government and other leaders who spoke of all the opportunities that the children of the world can and should have.

They will recall the recommendations we made during our round table discussions and through them our message will resonate among our young people. Our promises will become their promises. Perhaps we are not yet able to assure them that chaos and confusion will soon end, but we can promise to do more so that they suffer less as a result of our actions. Let us not disappoint them, but instead ensure that our efforts will bring us closer towards creating a world truly fit for our children.

I thank you.