New York, 10 May 2002

Mr. President
Mr. Secretary-General
Distinguished delegates

Slightly more than ten years ago the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the World Summit for Children gave rise to a new way of looking at the world; namely, one centered on children The time is thus fit for taking stock of the advances achieved and the tasks still pending.

During that decade very significant changes took place in my own country at the social and political levels. Midway through that period, following 36 years of internal armed conflict, the peace agreements that constitute our strategic frame of reference were concluded. Among other gains, substantial advances were made in respect of most of the goals set at the World Summit for Children In the health area, we managed to reduce infant mortality from 73 to 45 per thousand children born alive, while the death rate of children under five fell from 110 to 59. We are, however, still far from the desirable indicators, so that the need to continue reducing those rates as well as maternal mortality are priority aims within the social policy of the Government.

Moreover, although the malnutrition indices were reduced, malnutrition is still one of the main causes of illness and death in the country; it has, in addition, a negative effect on the learning capacity of our boys, girls and adolescents.

A significant step forward was taken with the establishment of the Social Development Law and the Programme of Reproductive Health Policy, within which education including the need to prevent and care for HIV/AIDS, is a sizable component.

As regards education, and in keeping with the world tendency, the rate of primary school enrolment has evolved favorably, having risen from 35% in 1990 to 81% in 2000. But this is not enough inasmuch as deficiencies in the area of education are the main factor limiting the development of the country. This is why education has risen to the top of the social agenda, the aim being to ensure that by 2,004 that rate will have increased by 20% and illiteracy will have fallen in the same proportion. Educational reform seeks to develop thought processes, values, attitudes and patterns of behavior capable of establishing equitable and tolerant relations between peoples and cultures, which can in the medium term contribute to the consolidation of Guatemalan democracy.

In the same vein, the family is being supported, with the object of reducing child labor and encouraging boys and girls to attend and remain in school. Some years ago child labor was not recognized as a problem; today we are bent on eradicating it.

Since Guatemala is a plurilingual and multicultural country, bilingual education is key to ensuring that boys and girls do not drop out of school. This is why we note with satisfaction that the declaration before us, entitled "A World fit for Children," reiterates the rule prohibiting discrimination and embodies an undertaking to do all that is possible to guarantee that boys, girls and adolescents have access to the various services.

Mr. President,
Our agenda for the next decade must include the revision of our development model, in order that it cease to reproduce poverty, that it provide for a more just system, based on investing in children, the aim being an integral development of children and adolescents. The chief objectives of this agenda should be to ensure:

. access to universal basic health services, environmental regeneration, education and proper nutrition;
. full participation by children and adolescents in their development process;
. the creation of protective mechanisms, oriented principally toward strengthening the family, so as to avoid as far as possible the institutionalization of boys and girls;
. a rigorous fight against drugs and an all-out struggle against the sexual and commercial exploitation of children, together with legal reforms that severely punish adults who corrupt our children;
. the strengthening of a sound juvenile justice system;
. the strengthening of preventive and other actions seeking the rehabilitation of adolescents caught up in gangs.

Finally, and regarding our international agenda, I am pleased to announce that yesterday we deposited our ratification of the two optional protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

We are conscious of the magnitude of the challenge. We trust nevertheless, that thanks to our own efforts, the participation of our children and adults, as well as international cooperation, we shall bring about more inclusive and equitable conditions of life for our children.

Thank you