H.E. Mr. Stjepan Mesic
 President of the Republic of Croatia

United Nations Twenthy-seventh session of the General Assembly on children

United Nations, New York May 8, 2002

Mr President,
Mr Secretary General, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

I have not come here to talk about declarations or resolutions, or to present statistical data and figures.

I have come to talk about children, the children in the world in which we live, the children to which our present-day world is often denying the right to live and, even more frequently, failing to provide them the opportunity to lead the life they deserve - as human beings, as children.

We, the politicians holding responsible and most responsible offices, represent this world, and run it as the leaders of our countries. We have assumed the responsibility.

Let me ask you a question: when you remember the thousands, the tens and hundreds of thousands of children beggars, labourers, fighters, children who are victims of family violence and of sexual abuse, can you say, do you have the courage to say: we are doing everything we can, and this world cannot be better than it is, not even for children?

I cannot say that, nor do I dare say it. I am convinced that this world can and must be better. For the children as well!

Let me ask you another question. When you face information on how many children lack the slightest chance to reach adulthood because they will die of hunger or otherwise curable diseases - incurable for these children because drugs will never reach them - or on how many children have no opportunity to attend school and learn at least the essentials, will you have the courage to say: we have done everything that could be done, and we cannot do better in the present-day world - not even for the children?

I do not dare say it. I have absolutely no doubt that this world not only must but also can be better. Primarily for the children!

I know that today the position of the children is better than it was literally yesterday. I also know that it is substantially better than it was in the mid-twentieth century. Finally, I know that today the position of children is incomparably better than it was in the early twentieth century - not to go further into the past.

But let us face the truth. The position of children is not good, and in some parts of the world, particularly in underdeveloped countries - but not only in them - it is disastrous. I have already referred to the children labourers, beggars, fighters, to children condemned to death of hunger and otherwise curable diseases, children
condemned to illiteracy and lack of education, children victims of violence of all kinds.

As long as even one such child exists, we cannot be satisfied with the condition of the children in this world.

We have to fight this problem - each of us on our own but also all of us together. Some simply cannot fight it on their own, while others find it difficult to decide to do even what they can do. If we really want to, together we will be able to do it!

Therefore, we need a concerted, coordinated, long-term effort, a clear concept and, of course, the required funds.

This can be accomplished precisely within the United Nations or, to be quite specific: only within the scope of the United Nations. However, and that is an old and many times confirmed truth, the accomplishment of the United Nations is equal to the wish of the member countries. This again brings us back to ourselves!

We, and when I say 'we' I mean both states and their leading politicians, are those who must first face the truth and then agree on the course of action. In doing so we have to be fully aware that we shall achieve practically nothing unless we proceed from the fact that the problem of our children can be dealt with only within the broader context of the problems facing the present-day world.

Let me list, even if only by indication, the basic elements which should be sought at the root of the present unsatisfactory condition of the world's children. And, let me add, although I thereby seemingly exceed the framework of the session's topic - not only of the children.

These elements include: the still inadequately widespread and unequally developed democracy based, among other things, on the strict respect of human rights, the rights of children included; the inadequate presence of the welfare state; wars and internal conflicts; underdevelopment; massive unemployment; lack of awareness that the use of children as labourers or as soldiers is equal to crime, and that the lack of education denies the future not only to the children but also to the countries in which they live.

In other words, the propagation and reinforcement of democracy, the development of the welfare state, the elimination of wars and armed conflicts of all kinds, investments into development and development aid - meaning at the same time the reduction of unemployment, the enhanced awareness of the necessity to assure carefree childhood followed by education - all these will qualitatively improve the overall status of children in the world. And not only of children, but of the members of the human race in general.

If we really want to give the children of the world a better future, after the last year's tragic events in this city and in Washington the factors to be eliminated should certainly include global terrorism as well, because children are also abused when trained for future terrorists; moreover, throughout the world children are also victims of terrorism.

The time has come for changing things. All over the world. The time has come to restore childhood to our children, to offer them prospects, and thereby assure the future to our nations and countries.

I declare that the Republic of Croatia will support and be actively involved, within the context of the efforts taken by the United Nations, in every project focused on improving the status of children in the world!

I confirm that my country will consistently pursue the policy of peace, firmly convinced that it is only in conditions of peace that we can build democracy and provide for development, without which there is no life in dignity - for the children, but also for the working population and for the elderly.

Let me reiterate: we have assumed the responsibility. Let us behave responsibly. Let us make our world better than it is - for the children, but not only for them.
I started my address with a question. Let me conclude with a question as well: can we do it?

This is the place and the time, high time, to answer this question. Let us answer it together, and let us answer it affirmatively. And then, let us do what has to be done - for the sake of our children of of the children of their children, for the sake of the future of our world!

Thank you