The Hon. Bibi S. Shadick 
Minister in the Ministry of Labor 
Human Services & Social Security 

At the
Twenty-Seventh Special Session 
of the 
United Nations General Assembly on Children

New York
8 May 2002

Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General, Distinguished delegates
Ladies, Gentlemen, Child Delegates

   More than a decade ago when the General Assembly of this august organization adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the message was clear - our children and adolescents, while enjoying equal and inalienable rights as human beings, needed special care and protection for the achievement of their full potential. We all answered that call and today the Convention has become the most widely ratified of international instruments, forming the basis of national and regional plans of action on children. We ensured that the First World Summit on Children, which focused on the survival, protection and development of children, was founded on these very principles of the CRC. And this Special Session which is expected to provide a common vision for a World Fit for Children cannot ignore the important tenets established by the Convention.

   Children and adolescents remain a vulnerable group in most societies. The global reports since 1990, which have addressed the situation of children, admit that sustained interventions are needed if the rights of children are to be respected and promoted. In the area of health for example, the right to health can only be assured through the reduction of childhood diseases as a result of greater immunization, improved health care and the provision of basic social services. At the same time, equal access to education, clean water, safe sanitation and improved nutrition have served to improve the health status of our children. A supportive environment for the family, community and particularly mothers also provides much needed reinforcement of the well-being of children. Equally important are the eradication of poverty and illiteracy, the curtailment of the spread of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and its attendant effects on children, families, communities and the national economy as well as the equal access to all of information technology and the wonders of scientific and technological advances.

  Guyana has borne witness to the virtue of sustained interventions for the benefit of children and adolescents. Through the National Action Plan for Children, the key concerns of children and women have been kept on the political and social agenda of national authorities and the achievement of identifiable goals were monitored in a timely manner. Guyana had identified as priorities in this Plan, the family, health and nutrition, water and sanitation, education and literacy, children at risk including the homeless and disabled and the legal and constitutional rights of the child. In all these areas successes have been recorded but more still needs to be done. The Government of Guyana will maintain its current program to provide basic sanitation and upgrade water systems in urban areas while expanding coverage in rural communities. Emphasis will similarly continue to be placed on the general management of the health delivery system as well as strengthening and expanding primary, secondary and tertiary health care, given the drastic reduction of infant mortality rates by approximately a half over the past decade and the marked improvement of immunization coverage for all five antigens. Moreover, faced with the challenge of a growing number of HIV/AIDS infected young people in the country, the Government is encouraging the research and manufacture of antiretrovirals to facilitate the current program at public hospitals of free medication to those affected with particular emphasis on the prevention of mother to child transmission of the disease.

   Recognizing the close link between education and health, the Government of Guyana is committed to realizing the right of every Guyanese citizen, as provided for by our Constitution, to free education from nursery to university. At the same time, it has been acknowledged that the quality of and access to education could be further improved. In this regard, attention has been given to strengthening and expanding the educational infrastructure, particularly in rural areas. A literacy program was launched in 1996 aimed at enhancing mechanical and critical reading skills as well as consultation skills and building self-confidence. Likewise, policies are currently in place to reduce the incidence of out of school children, increase the educational coverage of special needs children, provide rehabilitation services to disabled children and their families and expand the coverage of early childhood pre-school education.

   National priorities this year aimed at realizing children's rights to include the right to an identity evidenced by a Birth Certificate and the enactment of a children's bill as part of attempts to harmonize national laws with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In tandem with this Bill, there is one which caters for the establishment of a Family Court with Supreme Court jurisdiction and close attention is being given to upgrading judicial procedures for the de-institutionalization of children and the establishment/ improvement of preventive and rehabilitative systems for children in conflict with the law, children in need of care and protection, abuse victims and child perpetrators, children and teenagers at risk and children with disabilities.

   Mr. President, the persistence of poverty and its devastating impact on the lives of children remain a source of constant concern for the Government of Guyana. The complex nature of poverty in Guyana was the subject of a recent national development strategy aimed at improving the lives of all Guyanese. In proposing strategies to deal with this affliction, the role of the international community cannot be ignored. Guyana was particularly pleased to note the new commitments made last April to increase the international funds available for the development of developing countries. Concerted efforts must continue to reverse the decline in overseas development assistance. The huge debt servicing obligations of poor countries must be addressed expeditiously if the latter are to play an active role in their own national development. The continued trade barriers to the exports of developing countries must be dismantled. Global capital flows and investment must not be restricted to a handful of countries and region.

   For Guyana therefore Mr. President, a World Fit for Children would be premised on dignity, equal and inalienable human rights, freedom justice, peace, social progress and economic development. It would be a world in which global and national economic growth translates into social and economic well-being for all. There would be no need to set goals to reduce by half the more than one billion persons, mostly women and children, living in poverty. Research and development would be aimed at social progress rather than profit and gain so that affordable medical treatment for all is available. Children would be guaranteed equal and quality education irrespective of their place of birth or origin. There would be no breeding ground for the economic, sexual and other exploitation of children. The phenomenon of street children would disappear as families and individuals are provided with the economic and social support and opportunities needed to live comfortable lives. Combatants in wars would respect the sanctity of childhood.

   And as Guyanese, we are convinced that this vision is achievable. With a firm commitment at all levels to democracy, respect for the rule of law and policies aimed at promoting equity, the foundation for social progress will be firmly laid. We urge all children as they participate in this Special Session, to lead the way to a brighter future. For indeed you are not simply observers to the development process but important actors whose views and actions will condition the world of tomorrow.

I thank you.