SPAIN on the Behalf of the European Union

Statement
by

Pio Cabanillas,
Minister / Goverment Spokesman of Spain,

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

New york
8 May 2002

Mr Chairman,

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union. The Central and Eastern European countries associated with the European Union Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the associated country Cyprus, align themselves with this statement.

First, I would like to thank the United Nations Secretary General for the excellent report "We, the Children", that constitutes a solid base from which to draw up future agendas on children and adolescents, Ambassador Ms. Patricia Durrant, Chairperson of the Preparatory Committee of this Special Session and the rest of the members of the Committee, for the efforts devoted to this process.

Likewise, we would like to express our most sincere acknowledgement to UNICEF and to its Executive Director Ms. Carol Bellamy, for its dedication and professionalism in improving the situation of children worldwide, and to the Fund´s National Committees for their excellent work of support and preparation.
The almost universal ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the impact it has had on the daily lives of our children is, without comparison, the greatest achievement for children of the past decade.  The CRC is the standard for all our work for and with children. In all our countries the implementation of The CRC is high on the national agendas and part of policy and decision making in all areas. In this respect, the EU is guided in all its actions on behalf of children by the Convention´s four general principles: the best interest of the child, non-discrimination, survival and development and participation.

Since the adoption of the CRC and the World Summit for Children in 1990, we have made concrete progress in all areas of human rights and in forging a global framework for poverty reduction.  We have achieved this through the major UN conference and conventions and their follow up, culminating in the Millennium Declaration which sets a clear agenda for the 21st century.

Our countries are promoting the Convention at the national level. The EU´s Charter of Fundamental Rights reaffirmed the obligations to act in the best interest of children and to take their views into account. Furthermore mechanisms for monitoring compliance with the CRC have been put in place. The creation of ombudspersons for children or other similar institutions exists in a great number of countries in all regions. The Committee on the Rights of the Child accomplishes a fundamental function in reviewing progress and making recommendations for the full implementation of the Convention. At the international level, we have consistently promoted the integration of a rights-based approach in the work of regional and global organisations such as UNICEF and we welcome the fact that this is now firmly entrenched in their mandates and programmes.  The great increase in the number of NGOs and other grass-roots organisations which work to promote and protect the rights of the child around the world, has led to a global acceptance of the values and principles enshrined in the Convention.

Mr. Chairman,

We re-commit ourselves today to the adoption of public policies for the realisation of the rights of the child in order to create a "world fit for children".

In this context, our priorities are:

First and foremost our action for children should be firmly rooted in the Convention on the Rights of the Child as the legal basis, the necessary and essential reference in the realisation of those rights. In this context we urge all States parties to immediately withdraw all reservations, which are incompatible with the Convention, and to regularly review other reservations in view of withdrawing them.

The Convention has created a powerful force for realising the rights of children everywhere. We celebrate the recent entry into force of the two Optional Protocols to the CRC on armed conflicts and the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and, given their importance, we urge all States to sign and ratify, and those that are parties to them to fully implement them.

A key priority of the EU is to work towards the abolition of the death penalty. In the context of this Special Session, we make an urgent call to end this practice and life imprisonment, for those who were under eighteen years of age at the time the offence was committed.

The European Union is concerned that the sexual and reproductive health of young people has been a neglected area. In many countries HIV/AIDS is spreading fastest among 15-24 year olds, every year adolescents give birth to 30 million infants, and girls under 20 are twice as likely to die from childbirth as women in their twenties. Moreover, being a teenage mother also limits a girl's prospects for the future, including with respect to income and education. We need to address these problems urgently. Young people should be empowered to make appropriate and safe choices about their sexual behaviour.  They must be able to access high quality sexual and reproductive health information and services to achieve this, as we all agreed in Cairo and Beijing.

The Millennium Development Goals commit us to reduce child mortality by two thirds and maternal mortality by three-quarters by 2015.  To achieve these goals, we must develop fair, accessible and effective preventative and curative health and social services.

Child labour has been a prominent issue on the international agenda in the nineties, culminating in the adoption of ILO Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour. The EU welcomes the growing number of states that have ratified ILO Convention 138 on Minimum Age for Admission to Employment and underlines its importance for the effective abolition of child labour and reining in the minimum age for admission to employment.
All states have agreed to provide free primary education of good quality to boys and girls alike.  This must be made available equally to children with physical or mental health disabilities. We need to ensure that children also learn values such as tolerance and respect for diversity and how to protect the environment. This underlines and reinforces our belief that children must have the right to live free of racism, xenophobia, intolerance and all forms of discrimination.

We take our obligations to listening to boys and girls seriously when considering issues that affect them. We recognise children as active participants in the construction of our societies and perceive the importance of their vision in the formulation of a common future strategy. This Special Session formally recognises this importance, and a sign of it is their presence among us. We are listening to their recommendations with great interest.

Mr. Chairman,

These goals, which I have outlined, are ambitious, but I believe, achievable. We are convinced that the fulfilment of the rights of the child is a task and responsibility of everyone. International co-operation and collaboration can contribute to fully achieving the obligations and principles of the Convention throughout the world. To this end we will build on the Monterrey Consensus and its agreement to forge a new partnership between all our countries in accordance with our repeated commitment to achieve the goal of channelling 0.7% of our Gross National Product to Official Development Assistance, the Member States of the UE have decided to do what they must  to collectively reach an average of 0.39% in the European Union by 2006.

We must ensure that the Plan of Action we shall agree on here does not remain words alone.  We recognise that we will be accountable to all our children if we do not deliver on this.

Therefore, Mr. Chairman, while we have made much progress, there is still much to be done in facing the challenges at hand. The tragic events of September 11 made clear how fragile peace is, and strengthened our conviction of the need to put in place a plan of action which is both clear and demanding, in view of ensuring a comprehensive human rights framework on behalf of children.

We hope that this Special Session will offer an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to the Rights of the Child worldwide. We believe that this is the only way for humanity to progress and develop.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.