H.E. Alhaji Aliu Mahama
Of the Republic of Ghana

at the
Twenty-Seventh Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Children
New York
8 May 2002


Mr. President
The Secretary-General of the United Nations
Your Excellencies,

It is indeed a great honor and privilege for me to address this August assembly, The 27th Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly dedicated to children. This unique meeting is devoted to the review of the achievements in the implementation of the Declaration and Plan of Action adopted 12 years ago at the World Summit for Children.

Mr. President, I join previous speakers in congratulating you on your election to preside over this Special Session. We are confident that under your able leadership, the work of this session will be crowned with success.

In pursuance of Ghana's commitment to the well-being of her children; Ghana in 1992, formulated a ten-year National Program of Action, with a mechanism for monitoring progress on its implementation entitled, "The Child Cannot Wait".

This document, which served as a working tool for organizations working with and for children in Ghana, was based on the World Declaration on the Rights of the Child to Survival, Protection, Development and Participation and its Plan of Action.

To ensure that information on the rights of children was disseminated widely, the government together with non-governmental organizations initiated educational activities on the Convention on the Rights of the Child and translated it into six major Ghanaian languages.

A major achievement over the decade in relation to the implementation of the Convention of the Rights of the Child has been the process of law reform on children in Ghana, which began in 1995. The review of all existing laws relating to children and the enactment of the Children's Act guaranteed that national legislation conformed to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Mr. President, Ghana, like many other countries, has achieved mixed successes in terms of the goals and targets set by the 1990 World Summit for Children.

On health, access to primary health care services and facilities have improved in the last decade. Immunization coverage against the six childhood killer diseases, such as measles, whooping cough and polio is near 90%. Due to successful National Immunization Days with high coverage, Ghana is beginning to win the fight against Polio. The result has been a reduction in the infant mortality rate from 103 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 56 per 1,000 live births in 1998.

In conformity with the goals of the Summit, a free, compulsory and universal basic education program was launched in 1996. This program has remarkably improved the primary school attendance rate.

In addition, a Girl's Education Unit was established to give special attention to girls' education, reduce the dropout rate for girls and increase the transition rate of girls to senior secondary school.

Mr. President, our commitment to the pursuit of the best interest of children is also evidenced by the appointment of a Minister of Cabinet rank for Women and Children. This is to ensure that issues of gender disparity, which have negative impact on children, are addressed at the highest level. These and other measures taken on behalf of children are to ensure that legislations and policies already enacted would be enforced with full government support.

Mr. President, in spite of these and other policies and programs adopted, Ghana could not fully realize her desired goals for her children because of the lack of resources. Fluctuation in the world prices of our export commodities, coupled with high petroleum prices on the international market, our growing external debt and dwindling official development assistance, have greatly limited the amount of resources at the disposal of government for the care of our children.

This trend of affairs, as you are well aware, is prevalent in many developing countries, in particular those in sub-Saharan Africa. Lack of adequate resources is a major challenge to the well-being of children in our part of the world. Thus, sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the highest child mortality rates, lowest immunization coverage and lowest school enrolment rates. Coupled with these problems is the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS and armed conflict on these children, a situation which continues to deepen the persistent poverty faced by Africa's children.

Mr. President, we in Africa acknowledge that it is our responsibility to ensure the well-being of children on our continent. Unfortunately, we are unable to meet this all-important obligation. It is in this regard that we call on the international community to respond to the call in the Millennium Declaration to make a "first call" for children in Africa. We also call on the international community to support the efforts of governments on the continent in their pursuit of the goals of the World Summit for Children, in the spirit of international solidarity.

We, on our part, are making every effort to mobilize resources locally to improve the situation of our children through a program dubbed `National Partnership for Children'. A trust fund has also been created to support needy children with scholarships and financial aid to pay for special medical care, which has become expensive lately. We have also launched the "Yes" pledge for children to involve all our countrymen in global efforts to build a better world for our children.

Mr. President, let me now turn to some emerging issues which this Session needs to address in order to ensure the well-being of all children in the 21th century.

The situation of children in armed conflict deserves urgent attention and we need to take action to put an end to the awful impact of armed conflict on children. We, however, believe that the international community needs to be more forceful in bringing to justice, all those who commit war crimes, particularly against women and children, to serve as a deterrent to potential perpetrators of these wicked crimes.

In this connection, we urge all member countries to stop the recruitment and use of children as soldiers and work towards the rapid and universal ratification and implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. We should also end impunity and promote accountability through the universal ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. We also urge the international community to control the illicit flow of small arms and light weapons to protect our future generations. Equally important is addressing the issue of trafficking in children for slavery and sexual exploitation, which is on the rise in almost every region.

We hope that this Session will galvanize action on the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in persons, especially Women and Children and supplementing the United Nation's Convention against Transitional Organized Crime to deter traffickers. Without a commitment to implement these measures, our future leaders will continue to be at the mercy of the perpetrators of such horrendous crime and our desire to create a world fit for children will be fruitless.

Finally, Mr. President, it is the fervent hope of my delegation that governments and the international community will commit the required resources to implement the outcome of this Session. "A World Fit for Children", must ensure that every child gets at the very least one nutritious meal a day and protection from all forms of neglect, abuse and exploitation.

Thank you.