H.E. Mr. Irakli Menagarishvili,
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia

Mr. President,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the outset, let me welcome all the participants of this international forum and convey a word of special appreciation from H. E. Mr. Eduard Shevardnadze, President of Georgia, who was among the active participants of the First World Summit for Children in 1990. His Excellency had planned to join our meeting, but the recent powerful earthquake in Tbilisi, capital of my country, has unfortunately prevented Him from coming.

Twelve years ago, when the world community of nations was already preparing to welcome in a new millennium and establishing a post cold war world architecture, in this Hall a document was adopted expressing global determination of that historic time.

This determination has been unfolding through sustained efforts of many actors, in particular the UN and UNICEF in making an idea on the World Fit for Children real. Therefore, I should like to express our gratitude to the UN Secretary General Mr. Kofi Annan and the UNICEF Executive Director Ms. Carol Bellamy, all our partners for guiding us through a lengthy and complex preparatory process.

We also appreciate much the cost-effective contribution of the UNICEF headquarters, including its regional and country offices to the elaboration and implementation of a number of vitally important projects serving best interests of the children of Georgia.

Mr. President,

Here I would like to quote President Shevardnadze, who, addressing that High Forum from this rostrum twelve years ago, expressed his conviction that "nobody could ever again deprive the members of our common house of the right to smile, to love, to study, and finally to live".

Those words reflected the mood of that period of time. Today, one question seems very topical: Have our hopes been fulfilled and to what extent have we paid our debt to the small citizens of our planet?

Unfortunately, with the end of the cold war the spread of a "new thinking" has been hampered. Conflicts of a new epoch, aggressive separatism and ethnic cleansing in many regions of the world, including Abkhazia, Georgia brought tears and hardships to hundreds of thousands of children, who still suffer from the terrible feeling of injustice and uncertainty.

Just as it was in the previous century, indifference remains the foremost enemy and sin of the mankind. How can the world community accept the fact that the separatist regime in Abkhazia denies the right of the children to study in their own tongue, to use the books written in Georgian? As long as there is even one child refugee left, the world community should feel indebted to the young generation. Neither has this great city escaped a destructive wave of violence and hatred. The tragic developments of September I It' have made it clear that the world fit for children we all aspire to calls for an unconditional commitment of every nation, when we must neither tolerate international terrorism nor its feeding sources. Children cannot feel at home in an insecure and unstable world. Hence, our political will and the resources required are to be devoted to keeping the young generation's concerns high on our agenda.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The process of globalization of political, socio-economic and international activities creates new opportunities along with challenges. This is especially vulnerable for those parts of the world, where the difficult process of democratic transformations and transition to market economy has been going on. Children in such countries suffer most from the difficulties of transitional processes and need our understanding and full support.

In the circumstances when national resources, as well as international aid are limited, the role of the private sector may well be a decisive one. And when it comes to children's problems, this role has to become more meaningful.

In today's world the diversity of challenges relating to children acquires dangerous proportions. In this respect, health and good basic education are key factors for a child's development. These issues are topical particularly for newly independent states, which in the process of building their new statehood do lack adequate resources to fill the gap created in the above fields.

In this regard, we attach great importance to deployment of modern Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the education system of our countries. Educated and employed persons represent the driving forces of a country's sustainable development.

Today, I would also like to emphasize the significance of adhering to participation rights of children. In this respect, let me now draw your attention to the successful national experience of Georgia. On the initiative of the UNICEF and under the high patronage of President Eduard Shevardnadze, the Children and Youth Parliament of Georgia has been elected. Such an institution is a place where children could express the views of their peers, bringing their concerns to the authorities and suggesting specific actions.

Mr. President,

Time has come to shift our focus to a result-oriented, realistic and flexible Plan of Action, with a real financial basis, in which the countries with economies in transition, including Georgia would take a proper place.

To conclude, let me express hope that this Forum will become an important stage in the global movement for children. Our paramount goal is to leave to our posterity a planet, which will live up to the man's moral and intellectual aspirations. I strongly believe that the generation which came after the demise of the totalitarian wall that divided nations, will live in such a world.

Thank you.