H.E. Luisa Duran De Lagos
Head of the delegation of Chile

 on the occasion of the Special Session of the General Assembly on Children

New York,
9 May 2002

Mr. President,
Mr. Secretary-General,
Distinguished Delegates,

The challenge of emerging as a developed and socially integrated nation in the century now beginning requires, as an inescapable pre-condition that we give our children and adolescents the cultural, emotional and material conditions that they need for the full development of their capacities.

Chile has embraced this principle by placing emphasis on the potentialities and contributions of young people and children rather than on a policy of assistance to satisfy their needs. This approach is the result of long experience and evaluation, mainly over the decade just ended.

Two significant milestones were reached simultaneously in Chile in 1990 that have served to raise the profile of the issue of protection of children and adolescents on the public agenda: the return to democracy and the convening of the World Summit for Children, prompted by which Chile subscribed that same year to the
International Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Mr. President,

More than a decade later, the most significant advances have been achieved against the backdrop of the elaboration in 1992 of a National Plan for Children, under which the State focussed its efforts on the fields of health, living conditions, education and the enactment of laws to protect the rights and integrity of children and adolescents.

Thanks to a policy that has combined economic growth with steady progress towards social equity, the levels of poverty and indigence among children and adolescents declined from 50.7 per cent in 1990 to 29.1, per cent in 2000.

In the area of public health, nearly all children under the age of 6 years undergo periodic check-ups in the health care network and some 98 per cent of them are now covered under the Comprehensive Immunization Plan.

Thanks to its educational reforms, Chile has increased coverage at all levels of education, with the greatest progress being made at the pre-school level, where the rate increased from 20.9 per cent in 1990 to 32.5 per cent in 2000, and at the secondary level, where it rose from 80.3 per cent in 1990 to 90 per cent in 2000.

In the legislative sphere, laws have been modified and others adopted with the aim of effectively protecting and guaranteeing the rights of children and adolescents. Some examples of these include: the law on filiation, the law on adoption, and the law on the prevention of domestic violence.

Nevertheless, inequalities still remain, depending on the location of children within the territory and on the socio-economic status of their families. The situation has been compounded by new problems, such as drug addiction, child prostitution, a steady increase in the rate of teenage pregnancy, and child workers, among others, which require coordinated efforts by the State and civil society

To address these problems, the Government has developed a national policy for children and adolescents, which is being implemented through a Comprehensive Action Plan for the decade 2001-2010.

This policy, which draws its inspiration from the Convention on the Rights of the Child, considers children as its subjects, with attributes and rights vis-a-vis the State, the family and the society.

The key goals of the national policy for children and adolescents are:
- promotion of rights;
- strengthening of the family;
- coordination of public policies;
- full protection for children; and
- participation by children and adolescents.

One aspect of this national policy is the comprehensive reform of the justice system to ensure the protection of the rights of children.

This provides for the enactment of a law for the protection of the rights of children and adolescents and the creation of a special criminal justice system for juvenile offenders.

A family court law will also be enacted under which judges will have jurisdiction to try cases involving such questions as child abuse, domestic violence, adoption, filiation and alimony.

In the field of education, it is proposed to increase access to quality education and to create mechanisms to keep children in school. In this connection, a law was promulgated last year to allow teenage mothers or pregnant teenagers to continue and complete their studies.

The free health care services provided in educational establishments will be extended into new fields and the school health programme will also be expanded to cover secondary school pupils up to the age of 18 years.

At the local level, special emphasis will be placed on community equipment that takes account of the recreational and leisure needs of children and adolescents.
In the artistic and cultural sphere, new avenues will be explored, such as the experiment with Youth and Children's Orchestras, which are having such a positive impact on children, their families and their communities.

Mr. President,

It is against this background that Chile today reaffirms its commitment to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and to the follow-up mechanisms that the United Nations has promoted.

Some 47 years ago, our poetess and Nobel laureate, Gabriela Mistral, sent a message, which was read at this very podium, on the occasion of the solemn session of the United Nations General Assembly on Human Rights, in which she stated:

"I would be happy if our noble effort on behalf of human rights were genuinely embraced by all nations of the world. This will be the greatest triumph achieved in our time".

I believe that her words have lost none of their relevance, especially if we direct them to the millions of children and young people who demand of us a more just world.

Thank you very much.