the President of ECOSOC
Ambassador Dr. Ivan Simonovic
Permanent Representative of the Republic of Croatia
on the occasion of the Special Session of the General Assembly on Children
10 May 2002
We all know that children are the world's future. Our investment in children today is a moral imperative and the only real legacy that we will leave behind.
So, are we investing enough?
The United Nations Children's Fund tells us that children are often
the first victims of armed conflicts, economic recession and poverty. In
developing countries, 1 in 3 children live in absolute poverty - in families
with income lower than $1 a day, 26 of every 100 will not be immunized
against any disease, 30 will suffer from malnutrition in their first five
years of life, 19 will have no access to clean drinking water, and 40 will
live without adequate sanitation. In the numerous conflicts
being fought around the world, 300,000 children are fighting in wars for which they are not responsible and which bring only immense suffering to them. We know that of every 100 children, 17 of them will never go to school. Of every 100 children who enter 1st grade, 25 will not reach the 5th grade.
We know that in some regions and countries, and especially in Africa, the numbers are even starker. All over the world too many children continue to be born into a life of chronic poverty and hopelessness, victims of sexual exploitation, conflict, HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.
It is obvious that we are not investing enough. Responding to children's rights, interests and needs. must become a political priority for all. By failing to invest in them now, we undermine their future and the future of the world.
We are facing a knowledge-driven global economy, where the quality of human capital has become a crucial factor in increasing incomes both for the individual and the State. How can children with deficits such as these in the areas of health and education have a fair chance to better their standard of living as adults and contribute meaningfully to their societies?
As you are aware, the Economic and Social Council will be meeting in July at the ministerial level to debate the theme, "The contribution of human resources development, including areas of health and education, to the process of development". During this session, we should not talk about these matters in the abstract. I will urge my colleagues to reaffirm and expand our commitment for concrete interventions in health, nutrition, water and sanitation, and education for all children, especially girls. It is imperative that we invest in children's health and education so that we give them the tools to create their own opportunities and to escape poverty.
The current Special Session of the General Assembly on Children is providing us with a comprehensive agenda for children as citizens of the society of today and tomorrow. Together with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child with its optional protocols this new agenda for children in the 21st Century contains sets of standards and actions aimed to secure the well being of all children.
This Special Session represents an important link in the chain of major conferences and summits intended to create a set of internationally agreed norms. The Millennium Summit of 2000, committed, us, among other goals, to halving extreme poverty and hunger, to achieve universal primary education and gender equity, to halve the pfoporfion of people without access to safe drinking water and to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS and malaria by 2015. We should insist from now on that, in working to reach these targets, our interventions focus on children's rights, interests and needs. We are heartened by the new spirit of international cooperation and solidarity that has come out of the Conference on Financing for Development. A couple of weeks ago, during the discussion between ECOSOC and, the Bretton Wood Institutions it has been emphasised that Monterrey Consensus represents a performance contract between donor and recipient countries: one that has to be delivered. So let us start now with our children.
The Economic and Social Council can contribute to achievement of the Millennium development goals and the creation of a world fit for children by continuing to mobilize international political support. Furthermore, ECOSOC can in its oversight and management responsibilities ensure a coherent, coordinated and targeted response of the entire United Nations for the implementation of actions required to achieve these goals. To this end, the Council will mobilise its own subsidiary machinery, in particular its functional commissions as well as the full large potential of civil society organizations, including NGOs, the private sector and academia.
Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen,
"A world fit for children" is possible. It is entirely on us whether
we will be remembered with a curse, or a blessing. Let us work together
and make our children proud of us.