The Special Session of
the General Assembly on Children

8-10 May 2002



H.E. Ambassador Ellen Margrethe Loj
Permanent Representative of Denmark
to the United Nations

New York
10 May 2002


Mr. President, Mr. Secretary-General, ladies and gentlemen, youth delegates,

As this Special Session is coming to an end, I am pleased that children - so successfully - again have been placed at the top of our agenda. We have come together to talk about children. But we have not only talked. We have listened to the children, they have influenced our decisions. Here in the General Assembly, at the many side events and in the delegations. I don't think that we can ever again discuss the issues of children in the old way, without listening to their opinions.

The children have told us that they want to see implementation of the Convention of the Rights of the Child. They are impatient and for good reason. An enormous gap exists between our many good intentions and the lives that millions of children are forced to live in poverty and neglect. In spite of progress in some areas, much remains to be done. Good intentions and fine words need to be translated into concrete action.

Poverty is the root cause of most infringements of the rights of children. At the Social Summit in Copenhagen we promised to eradicate absolute poverty. But progress has been slow: Globally 25 per cent (1 in 4) of all children live in families, which have to live on less than 1 US dollar per person a day. Millions of children die from preventable diseases. One hundred million children do not go to school. That is why the Millennium Development Goals must be attained and that is why these Goals must guide all our actions.

As the Secretary-General stated the children have the right to demand that we do better. The Convention on the Rights of the Child, the human rights treaty ratified by the highest number of countries in history, confirms that children - as well as adults - have rights: They have the right to development and the right to be protected from discrimination, economic exploitation, abuse and violence. They have the right to participate and be heard in all matters that affect them.

Rights mean reaching not only the few, but also the most marginalized groups of children. We must do more to reach the unreached, not least children with disabilities and children from ethnic minorities.

Rights also include sexual and reproductive rights. Adolescents are sexually active all over the world. We can deny it, we can silence it, but it is a fact. And with silence we seal the destiny of yet more millions of adolescents as they fall victim to HIV/AIDS, early and unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions and sexually transmitted diseases. This trend will only be reduced, if we accept the rights and needs of adolescents.

Mr. President,

I believe that we can indeed achieve our goals. Especially if we recognise that children are not problems or vulnerable groups - they are the best and brightest resource that we have. We agree with what the statement of the Children's Forum said:

"We are not the sources of the problem; we are the resources that are needed to solve them.
We are not the expenses; we are the investments.
We are not just young people; we are people and citizens of this world."

Engaging children and adolescents in dialogue, listening to their opinion, building partnerships and learning from them make good sense. This Special Session has been a good starting point for furthering this dialogue. Children and adolescents can be important and constructive players in development processes. It will be our challenge to ensure that they are allowed to participate in the design, planning and implementation of programmes, which aim at improving their lives.

Mr. President,

We, the Governments, must also support the children and do everything in our power to help them on their way. In order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals for children in education and health we reconfirm our commitment to our partnership with developing countries. The target of 0.7 per cent of the gross national product as official development assistance must be honoured. Concrete and determined efforts by the rich world are long overdue. The decision announced by the European Union in Monterrey two months ago was an important step in that direction. Denmark urges other donorcountries to establish similar concrete time frames for meeting their commitment and to fulfil these commitments.

Mr. President,

    This Special Session has made a lot of progress of which we should be proud:

    We have established that children and particularly adolescents have a right to participate in making decisions that concerns them.

    We have demonstrated that the Convention of the Rights of the Child is widely accepted as the crucial legal document on which we will base our follow-up and have recognised that children have the right to development and protection.

    We have addressed the issue of HIV/AIDS that is such a serious threat to the future of many children.

    We have incorporated the ILO conventions on child labour into our Plan of Action.

    We have confirmed that also young people should be ensured access to reproductive health care and services.

    And we have repeated our commitment from Monterrey to make funds available for the realisation of the Millennium Development Goals.

Mr. President,

The future of our children lies with leadership at all levels and in the choices leaders make. I hope that this Special Session is the beginning of a global movement. A movement, which puts children first in all matters, not just in words but also in deeds. The children and adolescents of the world will judge how we managed and hopefully hold us accountable for our efforts to protect and promote their rights and to improve their lives. And to the children and adolescents I say: Please hold us to our commitments and claim your rights.

Thank you, Mr. President