H.E. MS. TARJA HALONEN
PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF FINLAND
AT THE SPECIAL SESSION ON CHILDREN
New York, 8 May 2002
Mr. President, Youth Delegates, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Human rights belong to everyone. The rights of the child are enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. To meet the special needs of the children we approved, twelve years ago, the World Declaration on the Survival, Protection and Development of Children and Plan of Action.
Its content is still valid, but unfortunately it has not been implemented fully. We must be able to achieve better results. First of all, adults and children share the same world. War, poverty, environmental risks, crime and many other obstacles to a good life are affecting children's lives either directly or through adults. Children are still involved in armed conflicts as soldiers or victims of war. Children are still living in the streets in extreme poverty and exposed to trafficking, crime and disease. Millions of children still have to earn a living for themselves and their families with hard work instead of school and play. And all too often we see how crime and terrorism spring from young people's despair.
Children must have the right to a safe childhood. Its most important elements are love and care. Children, girls as well as boys, must have the right to enjoy their childhood. Children must have the right to receive instruction, gain knowledge and learn skills for adulthood. I would particularly emphasise education for girls. Often it is not considered as important as the education for boys or is denied in practise because of household chores or other responsibilities.
Girls and boys have the right to health. Today's worst epidemic, HIV/AIDS, affects millions of children directly or by making them orphans. Children have the right to live free from poverty. They have the right to live free of all kinds of abuse and violence. Children also have the right to live free of conflicts, which destroy their homes and turn them into refugees. Promoting democracy, human rights and the rule of law is promoting children's interests and rights.
Finland is well prepared for this session and has taken into consideration the views of different actors, including non-governmental organizations. Our national report tells about the progress made up to now in improving children's situation.
It also notes current problems and worries. To prevent children's marginalization we need cooperation among families, schools and public authorities. We also need sincere consideration for others.
We are worried that in our globalizing world, economic competition and
the pace of work are tightening so that not all parents are able to give
their children enough care and time. Cooperation between public authorities
and labour market organizations should promote the balance between work
and family life.
The same spirit of enthusiasm, which began with the Millennium Summit and was present at the WTO conference in Doha and the LIN conference on financing for development in Monterrey must be here today. Many of the documents we jointly approve tell what we must do. And let me remind, that good resolutions in themselves do not change the world. We have to implement them.
We can make a happier future for children. Children can speak for themselves
as they have done in the Children's Forum. We must listen to them closely
and carefully. We cannot betray their expectations. We must give them possibilities
to participate in decisions, which affect them in accordance with their
age and maturity. Children are part of the solution, not the problem. Let
this special session be a benchmark of our recommitment to the cause of
Thank you, Mr. President.