President of the Republic of Gambia

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

New York,
9 May 2002

Mr President
Your Excellencies
Distinguished Delegates

On behalf of the people of The Gambia and on my own behalf, I would like to express our appreciation to the President of the General Assembly for the able manner in which he has been presiding over our deliberations. I would also like to thank the Secretary General for his very comprehensive report "We the Children" and once again congratulate him for his re-election to such high office

Mr President

Ten years ago, world leaders gathered here in New York in an unprecedented Summit to exchange ideas on issues that affect the well being of our children. The outcome of this gathering was a World Declaration and Plan of Action in which we committed ourselves o giving the children of the world a better future. We agreed on an ambitious agenda for children to address issues such as their survival, health, nutrition, education and protection.

Today, we are gathered to review progress made in the decade since the World Summit for Children. Since the Summit, the wide-ranging and world-wide preparatory process, including the "Say Yes for Children" campaign, gained momentum and culminated in this Special Session. This historic landmark heralds the advent of an era of re-invigorated international advocacy for the well-being of the world's children. As a result of political action and commitment at the highest level, the world has witnessed the coming into force of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most widely proclaimed human rights instrument in the history f our times. These efforts could not have been possible without the collaborative assistance and partnership of UNICEF. I must therefore commend UNICEF, through the Executive Director, Carol Bellamy and her team for the processes leading to this Special Session. And of course, special thanks also. goes to Her Excellency Ambassador Patricia Durant, who in her capacity as Chairperson of the Prepcom  did a marvelous job.

Mr President

African leaders have made a concrete commitment to the cause of African children - our children. Drawing inspiration from the African common position, we promote the ratification of the African Charter on, the Rights and Welfare of the Child and urged massive participation in this august assembly organized specials for children. Again this action re-affirms thepriority that we in Africa as a whole, give to the well being and future of our children as well as the realisation of their rights. It is obvious now, more than ever before, that the cause of children deserves our strong and continuous support. In this way, we would be demonstrating a clear indication of our collective commitment to achieving the bet for one of our most important resources - CHILDREN

Mr President

Over the years, my Government has embarked upon various initiatives that provide a conducive policy environment for the survival, development, protection and participation of children and women in The Gambia. These initiatives provide the necessary impetus for the smooth implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the child. In this regard, I am proud to say that my Government has ensured the enjoyment of a number of fundamental rights such as the right to primary education especially for girls, the right to health and nutrition, to clean water and sanitation, to gender equality and to freedom from exploitation and abuse.

For the next five years, my Government working with UNICEF is aiming, among o her things, at the following:

i. reducing the Under Five-Mortality rate by at least 20% and Maternal Mortality Rate by at least 10% nationwide;
ii. increasing the equitable access to quality basic education from 63% to 80% in selected geographic areas;
iii. ensuring that 50,000 children reaching the age of 8 are physically and mentally fit and able to learn; and
iv. developing a child protection policy.
The publication entitled "Creating a Child-friendly Gambia" highlights the achievements we have made and the constraints we encounter, as we work toward a child-friendly Gambia.

Mr President

We can not tackle the problems with which our children are confronted without addressing the issue of poverty. Poverty is a fact of life for over one billion people n earth and over half of them are children. In this connection, my delegation is of the view that we should strengthen our resolve to reduce poverty by half by he year 2015 as stated in the United Nations Millennium Declaration.

With regard to major health issues it will be recalled that HIV/AIDS continues to be a serious problem affecting our children and youth. e appreciate all the effort being made to arrest the spread of this pandemic. Malaria and Tuberculosis are other health problems that need , to be dealt with, with the same vigor. Despite the advances in medicine and medical technology today, MALARIA and tuberculosis are still killing, millions in Africa, the most affected being children. In this regard, I implore the world community gathered here today to also increase resources not only to fight against but also to eradicate MALARIA and Tuberculosis thereby ensuring a brighter future for African Children.

Mr President

We must work towards a world fee of terror, war and violence because this is what or children want and need from us. I would therefore like to deliver a message from a young girl in Banjul, who during a recently concluded National For m on Children asked  me to bring it here, and I quote:

Mr President

I would finally like to urge all of us to help our children use their energies in constructive and positive ways because the misdirection of their energies resulting from neglect, poor health, lack of access to education, abuse, exploitation, militarism and crime can only deepen social instability and crises. This is why the unique opportunity presented by this Special Session on Children must be fully exploited to address the obstacles that children and young people are confronted with today and to promote their meaningful participation in the institutions of their communities and respective countries. Let us therefore use this Forum to take the highest political action to facilitate the achievement of the goals set for the ell being of the children of the world.

"Please write it down, Your Excellency. When you go to the Special Session on Children, tell  them that we do not need any violence; we do no need any weapons. What we need is for them to take the money and buy things  (educational) for us. We want to learn."

This message is clear and therefore we will recommit ourselves to work together in the area of peace making, peace building and conflict resolution.

In conclusion Mr President, my Government pledges its full support to the process that is evolving at this Special Session and looks forward to the early implementation of the many commitments made here.

I thank you for your attention.