THE VICE-MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND SOCIAL WELFARE
MR. DIMITRIS THANOS
TO THE UNITED NATIONS SPECIAL SESSION ON CHILDREN
10 MAY 2002
UNITED NATIONS, NEW YORK
Mr. President, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Greece as a Member State of the European Union aligns itself fully with the statement made by the Spanish Presidency.
The adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989, along with the 1990 Declaration and Plan of Action of the World Summit for Children, gave a fresh impetus to the debate on children's rights. During the last decade we have seen that these essential instruments are being taken seriously and a range of initiatives and measures have been designed to promote the interests of children.
I wish to express my congratulations to the Secretary General on his
excellent report "We, the children: Meeting the promises of the World Summit
for Children." The report contains a comprehensive analysis of the progress
we have made and of the obstacles we have encountered in our efforts to
fully implement the rights of the child. We take satisfaction in the improvements
that have been accomplished and at the same time we realize the enormous
challenges that still lie ahead. This Special Session on Children is an
important opportunity for the international community to reaffirm its determination
to tackle the tasks before us.
Making sure that all children enjoy healthy lives, quality education
and protection within a stable and suitable environment, is a significant
aim to direct policy. It is a given fact that the children's perspective
and the children's best interest have become more visible in policies,
administrative procedures and day-to-day practice.
However, in spite of these positive developments, the present state of society falls short of its objectives, even in the most developed countries. We are faced with an environment that remains unfriendly towards children and we are confronted with persisting evidence of factors, such as poverty, HIV/AIDS, social exclusion, political instability, armed conflict and authoritative models of behavior, that place children at great risks.
In the view of Greece, urgent priorities for children are to develop
sustainable health and social systems and to guarantee full access to them,
without discrimination. Special emphasis must be given to ensure universal
access to primary education, which can be a major component in breaking
the vicious cycle of poverty. Families, being the primary caretakers of
children, remain the basic unit in society and their role must be recognized,
while at the same time their capacities in offering guidance and protection
must be strengthened.
In addressing the problems facing children, Greece has constantly been taking a number of measures. For instance:
More and more emphasis has been given to primary health care and prevention, through the National Health System's reform. During the last decade many practices were initiated with the aim of improving reproductive and sexual health. Highlighted priorities include family planning, maternal health, HIV/AIDS/STD prevention and management, and sexual education and counseling.
In order to tackle poverty and social exclusion, last year the Government presented the National Action Plan on Social Inclusion which contains measures affecting children, such as the benefit for large families, the third child benefit and day care facilities. In the framework of the Plan, two new benefits were announced: the pension for poor households in rural areas, which will enable families to endure the burden for the care of children; and the school benefit, so as for children to remain in school.
In the field of education, the concern in Greece has been to improve the quality of public education. To this end the "all day" schools have been introduced and a great effort has been undertaken to ensure sufficient and suitable premises for all schools. All children, regardless of their nationality or residence status and even undocumented children, enjoy a free 9-year compulsory education.
For the safeguarding of children's rights, a National Observatory was
established by Law at the end of 2001 and a public debate was held recently
on the institution of Children's Ombudsman, which Greece is seriously examining.
Finally, the Youth Parliament, now in its sixth consecutive year, ensures
that the voices of children are heard at the highest level.
To face the different needs of children, we need integrated policies and permanent mechanisms of coordination that would develop and monitor the implementation of coherent action plans. In such patterns of collaboration, we need to involve Civil Society, especially the Non Governmental Organizations. Our objectives must be to make the best use of all available resources, to build upon positive experiences and to learn from the negative ones. These objectives require cooperation at all levels, and mainly at the global one.
In considering childhood policies we must see children as partners with
equal rights in their families and active members of society, who can assist
in shaping tomorrow's world, which will be their world. We, adults, should
join children in building a present and a future, in which children's rights
and needs are taken fully into account.
Thank you Mr. President.