H.E. Mr. Beriz Belkic
Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Addressing the General Assembly of the United Nations
on the occasion of
Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Children

New York, 8 May, 2002

Mr. President,
Mr. Secretary General, Ladies and gentlemen, Excellencies.

It is a great honour for me to address the Special Session today and a special pleasure to congratulate all the members of the Preparatory Committee. Ms. Chairperson. Ambassador Durrant, and finally UNICEF for successful guidance of the preparatory process of the Special Session.

Twelve years after the World Summit for Children, we gathered here to witness the change that delivered globalisation and shifts in all spheres of the society, in each region and every state. Some shifts are positive, some negative; some are completely new in wording; but have always been present in heritage. We. Leaders, what kind of world do we lead, if the children speaking about their rights set the right to be loved as their priority?

The first meeting of this kind twelve years ago and the opening of the Convention on Child Rights for signing built a foundation for a global society in which the rights of every child are a priority for each state and every leader. Not only the final decade of the last century, but also the New Millennium developments show that the Convention signed by the largest number of countries ever is just a beginning of work on a project of fight for child rights and protection of children from violence, terrorist or acts of war.

The last decade of the past century in Bosnia and Herzegovina was marked by suffering, war, poverty, two-fold transition, increase in the number of HIV/AIDS infected, child trafficking, mine-fields, destruction of family through loss of one or both parents. In other words, everything that can have negative impact on children, their basic rights. such as the right to live and, further, the right on health. education or the best possible start in life.

Therefore Bosnia and Herzegovina has special interest and responsibility to participate actively in the process of fighting for rights of children at home, in the region and globally.

Mr. Chairman.

I welcome this Special Session that is also special for a number of different but very important players in the process devoted to the rights of children. Those players are members of parliament, religious leaders, physicians, children and youth themselves, as well as the civil society. Only together, all of us together, can we respond to the challenges ahead of us.

The fight for child rights with all the above mentioned actors and at three key levels - the level of state, level of the region and the global level - gives hope that, since we did not succeed in achieving our goals at the beginning of the Millennium. at least we are going to make it for the generation that is being raised today, and is to come tomorrow.

In the regional context, Federal Republic of Germany and Bosnia and Herzegovina co-organised the Regional Preparatory Conference for the Special Session held in Berlin in May 2001. Representatives of 52 countries from the Region, NGOs, children and youth representatives participated in the Berlin Conference entitled Children in Europe and Central Asia and confirmed once again that child rights do not divide but unite.

In Berlin we exchanged experiences and discussed the past. present and future and learned that, when speaking about protection of children, there are no regional or sub-regional borders. With the ratification of the Convention on Rights of Children by all countries at the Berlin Conference the main focus was on the implementation of the Convention. Exclusion from the society is a reality for children in developed industrial countries as well as in the countries in transition. Children from ethnic minorities such as Roma children, children with physical impairments and refugee children all share the experience of discrimination. Poverty is not exclusively a problem of the East, just as HIV/AIDS is not only a problem of the West. Despite many legal frameworks, lack of protection and increase of exploitation and violence against children still represent one of the main areas in which more has to be done. Special attention was paid to the group of risk factors that increasingly surround children and youth, such as alcohol, cigarettes, AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. And finally, the connection between the rights of today's generations of children and that of the coming generations, have been considered, as well as the inter-generational justice and the sustainable environment.

Bosnia and Herzegovina as the co-organiser of this meeting with the Government of Germany is planning to participate actively in the continuance of regional consultations, evaluation of the regional process and placement of the guidelines for further work. On this occasion, I would like to express once again gratitude to the FR Germany for significant contribution in hosting and holding of this outstanding Conference.

Bosnia and Herzegovina will host the Regional Conference for 27 countries at which Child-Rights Regional Network of NGOs will be created in June 2002 as a confirmation to our commitment in strengthening the regional network of non-governmental organisations devoted to children. In strengthening the role of the children, inclusion of all sectors of the society is indispensable. In this process we are guided in particular by the voice of the civil society. In the preparatory process for this Session we have held consultations with NGOs in Bosnia and Herzegovina and accepted their conclusions and recommendations.

In this regard, allow me to inform you on the efforts of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the improvement of child rights. Bosnia and Herzegovina created the Plan of Action for Children for the period between 2002 and 2010 as a basis for the implementation of the Convention. Once again, I would like to pay a tribute to UNICEF that provided significant support in this large task. The Plan of Action foresees specific actions in the field of health. education and social protection of children. protection from violence and, finally , improvement of the existing legislation.

Improvement of living conditions of children is one of the main goals of the overall development of the country. War, transition, poverty and family disruption have all obstructed and held back the overall development and have reflected particularly on children. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, 22, 5% or one third of the population are children under 15 years of age. In addition to the usual parameters, our highest concern is the increased number of female children dropping out of school early and the increased number of girls entering marriage at the age of 14. Information on poverty is available, while information on domestic violence is not, despite the well known fact that violence exists in families.

Weakening of state institutions and porosity of state borders as one of the consequences of war opened the new and deepened the existing problems such as transit of drugs and human trafficking. We have undertaken a series of activities in order to reply, in a comprehensive way, to this contemporary form of slavery whose victims include minors in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Plan of Action has been adopted in order to prevent human trafficking, to give the victims protection and help and to improve the existing legislation for the prosecution of perpetrators. Now we have to implement the Plan.

The control of borders, with significant assistance of the UNMIBH, is also of highest importance. Since the establishment of the Border Service in June 2002, 75% of Bosnia and Herzegovina borders and the international airports have been controlled by this successful state agency. Planned objective is the full control of borders by the State Border Service before the UN Mission leaves Bosnia and Herzegovina at the end of this year.

Mr. Chairman,

Once again, I would like to stress that Bosnia and Herzegovina's commitment to respect and promote child rights is at the top of political agenda. We have just ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention of the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict and the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is determined to become a member state of the European Union. In the process of accession, Bosnia and Herzegovina will adopt the heritage of the European standards and rules. Therefore, our commitment today is to build a country devoted to each child, wishing to provide children with the best possible start in life.

Today in Bosnia and Herzegovina every child at the age of 12 or older remembers the tragedy of war. Almost one half of Bosnia and Herzegovina population was displaced or became refugees, 50% of children witnessed family brake up. Children are growing up burdened by discrimination and national intolerance, often having to walk kilometres to the nearest school. They listen every day about how difficult the economic situation is and that it may become worse with time to come.

Global process is truly global only if every country and every child is included. A global goal is at the same time an individual goal for each child. Teachers, scientists and world leaders of tomorrow are children of today and it is up to all of us here, this whole spectrum of partners, to give them a chance to respect themselves in their diversity, to teach them tolerance and how to forget the violence.

Our responsibility, as the leaders of today's world, is to provide the coming generations with hope and perspective for life in the environment of greater understanding, mutual respect and the respect of the right to be loved.

Thank You Mr. Chairman.