Dr. Christine Bergmann 
The Federal Minister for Family Affairs,
Senior Citizens, Women and Youth

at the
United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Children

New York
9 May 2002

Mr. President, Excellencies,

Honorable Delegates, Dear children and young people,

I would like to begin by expressing my support for the statement to be presented by the Spanish Presidency on behalf of the European Union.

The events of 11th September are a reminder to us that we must seek peaceful and political paths towards achieving understanding among peoples if we are to deprive aggression and violence of the ground on which it can thrive.

In this same spirit, this Special Session of the General Assembly is the continuation of an important process which commenced with the World Summit for Children in 1990.

The starting point for our efforts is a simple sentence: children's rights are human rights. This is unequivocally expressed in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child of 20th November 1989.
 Since 1990 we have made progress in many areas. Today, policy for children is a topic which has its place on the political agenda.

Nevertheless, now as in the past, basic children's rights continue to be violated all over the world.  We must find ways to ensure that the survival, the protection and the development of children are better ensured and supported than has been the case up to now.  Every day that goes by, 18,000 children under the age of five still die of starvation.  In the light of this alarming fact, it becomes clear how necessary it is to implement extensive measures against the scourge of child poverty.
The German Federal Government supports this strategy with its 2015 Programme of Action to reduce extreme poverty world-wide, as well as a debt relief initiative.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Ten million children die each year from avoidable causes.

HIV and AIDS are a threat to entire generations of children and young people.

This means that, despite some welcome progress which we have seen in the field of health, and which the United Nations Secretary General outlined in his report, we continue to face significant challenges.

In Germany, we initiated intensive education and prevention campaigns against HIV/AIDS at a very early stage and this has proven to be a successful strategy.

It is imperative that we incorporate our measures against HIV/AIDS into a comprehensive strategy to fight poverty.

This is why, today, combating HIV/AIDS worldwide is already an area of emphasis in German development cooperation activities.

In addition to those efforts, the German Government will be contributing, to the tune of 150 million Euro, towards a global health fund to combat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, the setting up of which was decided by the Heads of State at the G-8 Summit in Genoa.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Effective combating of poverty means providing children with wide access to basic education.

We cannot simply accept the fact that 100 million children worldwide have no opportunity to attend school.

We cannot stand by and do nothing while 250 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 are forced to work and in some cases are subjected to ruthless exploitation, even enslavement.

This is why Germany upholds the implementation of Conventions Nos. 138 and 182 of the International Labour Organization (ILO) which we have also ratified, and provides considerable financial support for the International Programme for the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC).

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Many children, the world over, are subjected to a tremendous amount of violence.

This is blatantly obvious, even if we look only at the number of children who are the victims of wars and civil wars violence.

It is our duty to protect children from every form of

People who have been exposed to violence as children suffer as a result for the rest of their lives.

They are deprived of their potential for development and frequently a vicious circle of violence is set in motion.

That is why Germany has given legal status to the right of children to a violence free education.
By means of a campaign entitled "More Respect for Children" we are promoting models of violence free upbringing.

The commercial sexual exploitation of children is an especially abominable form of violence.

An estimated two million children are currently being sexually exploited in countries all over the globe.

The Second World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children held in Yokohama in December 2001, revealed clearly that, although in recent years there has been an increase in awareness of the problem of sexual exploitation of children, and numerous measures have been taken at all levels, the number of sexually exploited children, especially those exploited in connection with child trafficking and child prostitution, is growing world-wide.

This is why we continue to need joint international efforts to effectively combat the sexual exploitation of children.

Since 1997, we have been working successfully together with NGO's in Germany within the framework of a national programme of action to protect children from sexual abuse.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me, at this juncture, to say a few words about the situation of young girls:

Taking children and young people seriously also means allowing them to have their say in making decisions which affect them.

For me, it is much more than a purely symbolic gesture therefore that, for the first time, children are participating actively, not only in the preparation of this Special Session, but also in the Session itself here in New York. The preparatory conference held in Berlin in May had already set standards in this respect.

Some months ago, we launched a programme in Germany with the aim of further expanding and promoting the participation of children and young people.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have come together today to discuss measures to improve the living conditions and the lives of children all over the world.

We will only manage to improve children's perspectives for the future and implement children's rights all over the world if we join forces.