H. E. Mr. Paulo Renato Souza
Minister of Education of the Federative Republic of Brazil

New York, 9 May 2002

(check against delivery)

"Mr. President,
Brazil is delighted to see you at the helm of this Special Session.
I would like to pay tribute to Ambassador Patricia Durrant, of Jamaica, and to UNICEF, through its Executive Director, Carol Bellamy, for their excellent work. I also commend the Secretary General for the quality of his report "We the Children".

Mr. President,

The cycle of worldwide conferences dedicated to human rights and social issues that took place in the 90's began and is now concluding with a meeting dedicated to the children.

Having had the honor of heading the Brazilian Delegation to the Copenhagen Summit on Social Development, in 1995, it is particularly gratifying for me to participate in the international efforts to agree on goals and strategies that may direct us towards a "World Fit for Children".

A Plan of Action to promote the rights of the child and the adolescent must build on the principles, goals and agreements reached in Rio, Vienna, Cairo, Copenhagen, Beijing and their follow up conferences.

Mr. President,

Brazil has made substantial progress to achieve the 27 goals established in 1990. We have fully achieved 9 of those goals, partially achieved 11 others and are collecting the data necessary to evaluate the impact of efforts made to achieve the remaining goals.

Brazil ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and adopted, in July 1990, a broad and effective legal framework - the Statute of the Child and the Adolescent - which in some areas went a step ahead of the Convention itself. Their implementation has not only meant institutional and administrative changes at all levels but also made way for the establishment of a complex monitoring and evaluation system that involves the government and civil society.

With this aim, more than fifteen hundred "Guardianship councils" integrated by five elected members are in place at the local level all over the country. We are promoting awareness campaigns to stimulate the free and universal registration of children after birth. Until recently, a third of the three and a half million children born each year in Brazil were not registered immediately after birth. As a result of this campaign and of a law passed in 1997 that guarantees that this service is offered free of charge, last year, there were 700 thousand new registrations after birth.

Mr. President,

In the area I am responsible for, Education, my country has also achieved significant progress. Approximately 5.5% of the GDP are dedicated to public education. 97% of the Brazilian children from the ages of 7 to 14 are now in school. Ten years ago, three million children in this age group did not have the opportunity to attend school. Last year, this total was reduced to 810 thousand. Greater access to basic education has been a top priority of the current Administration since 1995. The public system is already capable of enrolling all children in the 7-14 age group as well as to absorb the majority of children in the 15-17 age group. Four million new children were incorporated in the school system during the period of 1996 to 1999.

Changes in the allocation and administration of resources have allowed for an increase of 33% in the resources available for basic education. With these resources we were able to improve the infrastructure of schools and to provide better quality education. We were able to put a greater number of children in schools and, in a period of two and a half years, from December 1997 to June 2000, over 100 thousand new teachers were admitted and their average salary increased by 30%. Resources are being used more efficiently and are being channeled directly to schools. Several programs are being successfully implemented. I will mention two: the National Program for the Didactic Book, which is responsible for the free distribution of 110 million school books to approximately 32 million children and public libraries yearly, and the daily provision, at the local level, of lunches to over 35 million schoolchildren.

Inspired by successful experiences in the cities of Campinas, Brasilia and Ribeirao Preto, the Federal Government decided to expand to the entire country the "Bolsa Escola" initiative, a scholarship program by which a monthly stipend is given to low income mothers to encourage them to keep their children in school. It involves resources of over 700 million US dollars every year. "Bolsa Escola" is the largest direct income redistribution program in Brazil. It provides a 20% increase in the income of the families that benefit from the scholarship. It is also aimed at the empowerment of women by giving them direct access to the family's income as well as at stimulating them to participate in the education of their children. Since the launching of this program in February 2001, 9 million children belonging to 5 million families have already been helped. We expect to reach in the near future 5.8 million mothers and 11 million children.

Mr. President,

Brazil is fully committed to the progressive elimination of child labor. Besides the actions taken by the Ministries of Justice and Labor, I will mention the Program for the Eradication of Child Labor (PETI), aimed at poor and socially vulnerable families with children in the 7 to 14 age group and supported by the International Labour Organization. This program also provides a scholarship to maintain children in school. Last year, it reached approximately 400 thousand children and adolescents both in urban and rural areas. This program has been recently complemented by the "Young Agent for Social Development" project, aimed at adolescents between the ages of 15 and 16.

Mr. President,
In the last ten years, we achieved or came close to achieving most of the health-related goals set during the World Summit for Children. Infant and under 5 mortality rates have been significantly reduced. Routine immunization and vaccination campaigns helped in the decline of preventable infections and diseases. Polio was eradicated and deaths due to diarrhea decreased. Iodine deficiency disorders were virtually eliminated, with over 95% of Brazilian homes consuming iodized salt. There has been a significant increase in the access by women and adolescent girls to sexual and reproductive health services but we are aware that these services need to be improved to reduce the still unacceptably high levels of neonatal and maternal mortality and morbidity. Breastfeeding rates for up to six months jumped from 22% in 1975 to 69% in 1999.

As regards the HIV/AIDS epidemic, much has been said on the value of the Brazilian approach to face the challenges involved. I will only indicate that we are fully committed to deal with HIV/AIDS taking into account the human rights dimension and an integrated approach, which contemplates prevention and treatment, including the universal and free access to antiretroviral drugs, giving particular attention to the issue of vertical transmission.

Mr. President,

I wish to conclude by stressing and commending the fundamental role of the Brazilian civil society, including the work of volunteers, and of the private sector, which greatly contributed to the achievement of many of the goals set in 1990. Committed to a new set of goals and objectives to create a better and more loving world for our children, we remain reassured that the solidarity and fraternity that allowed for success in the past will be the guiding principles of the future.

Thank you."