Delegation of the European Commission to the United Nations




H.E. John B. Richardson
Head of the Delegation of the European Commission To the United Nations

On behalf of the European Community

New York, May 10, 2002

Check against delivery

Honourable Chairperson, Excellencies, Distinguished Child Delegates,

In addition to the statement made by Spain on behalf of the EU, it is a great pleasure and honour for me to address this Special Session on behalf of the European Community; special in a double sense because it is the first time the UN General Assembly addresses specifically issues relating to children, and because of its unique composition including young delegates.

Twelve years ago the World Summit for Children set a precedent by launching a shift in international priorities: since then increasing importance has been given to human and social development and the fight against poverty. In this respect, the work accomplished by a series of major UN Conferences on population, social development, gender, education, and communicable diseases provides an agreed framework for national and international action, reaffirmed by the UN Millennium Declaration. This Special Session highlights the fact that children are central to human progress and that there cannot be a better future for the world unless there is a better future for its children.
Creating a world fit for children is about creating an enabling environment with impact on the everyday life of children and their families. This must be reflected in poverty eradication strategies, but also in mobilising resources at national and international levels.
 The European Union collectively provides 55% of all Official Development Assistance. At the recent International Conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey the EU announced its intention to further increase development assistance by US$7 billion per year by 2006, from 0.33 to 0.39% of GNP and to continue towards the target of 0.7% GNP.
In implementing our policies we recognise children as a particularly vulnerable group in the overarching policy focus on poverty. Within this framework, mainstreaming of gender aspects and human rights, including rights of the child based on the Convention of the Rights of the Child, are closely linked with our poverty eradication efforts.

In the protection and promotion of children's rights implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child - the most ratified international instrument in the world - is crucial. It is by basing our action for children on its general principles that we can secure the progress required.

Concerted international efforts have brought health, education and gender issues to the core of the development process, which is essential in particular for children who are among the most vulnerable members of the society. There is also a new global consensus, reflected for instance in wide support for the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, to respond effectively to these major diseases, which hit children hardest. We have recently seen the first grants made to countries to enable them to scale up their efforts in this respect.

Considering that half of the world's 3 billion poor are children, urgent implementation of the commitments is needed to complete the unfinished agenda of the World Summit in 1990. The End-of-Decade Review of the SecretaryGeneral highlights that progress in creating a better world for children has been uneven with obstacles still to overcome particularly in developing countries, where a large majority of the 129 million children born each year will live.

As acknowledged in the Plan of Action, poverty remains a serious obstacle to meeting the needs and protecting and promoting the rights of children. It should be every child's right to grow up in health, peace and dignity.
Poverty eradication is at the heart of our development strategies with as essential components food security, education and health - including access to services and the prevention of Communicable Diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.
The four priority action areas highlighted in the Plan of Action - promoting healthy lives, - providing quality education, - protection from abuse and violence, and combating HIV/AIDS are all important areas for the development and humanitarian policies of the EU.

We fully support efforts to assist children affected by conflict, building on the obligations and principles spelled out in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Children are the first and most vulnerable victims of armed conflicts, whose effects on children can be diverse and long-term - and often life-long.

Recognising that the legal responsibility for protecting children affected by armed conflicts falls to States, the European Community is ready to contribute to these efforts through the provision of humanitarian assistance to children in areas affected by conflicts. However, our endeavours require co-operation from all state parties in order to ensure full, safe and unhindered humanitarian access to the regions of concern.

The impact of armed conflicts on children is not yet fully documented. Not only is the lack of hard facts detrimental to the credibility of international advocacy efforts; it is also a major obstacle to improving humanitarian response. As a major donor of international humanitarian assistance, the European Community would like to take this opportunity to encourage activities aiming at improving the data collection and analysis related to children in armed conflicts. Thus we have welcomed the initiative supported by the Special Representative of the Secretary General for children and armed conflict and by UNICEF to establish an international research network on children affected by armed conflicts.

We welcome the recent entry into force of the two Optional Protocols on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict and on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography. In our programme for the establishment of an area of freedom, security and justice in the European Union, a new dimension relating to children in fields such as the fight against human trafficking, sexual exploitation and common asylum and immigration policy was introduced in 1999. Our DAPHNE and STOP programmes address issues in relation to the protection of children against violence, trafficking and sexual exploitation.

In the context of the Enlargement process, the European Commission is monitoring children's rights with a view to ensuring that the Convention on the Rights of the Child is respected by the candidate countries.

You can find more information on our activities in support of children in the document entitled `European Community Responses to the World Summit for Children', which has been distributed at this Special Session.

Honourable Chairperson, Excellencies, Distinguished Child Delegates,

We welcome this Special Session and the important Outcome Documents aiming at creating a world fit for children and youth, who represent 35 percent of the world population and one day will inherit and build on our investments. The future cannot wait. It has to be tackled hands on now and every day in order to create an enabling environment for the fulfilment of the potential of millions of children.

It is now our responsibility and duty to translate the concrete and focused objectives of the Outcome Documents into an inclusive world fit for all children, whatever a child's point of departure in life. That is the goal towards which we must strive with determination.

I thank you for your attention.