Mrs. Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka
Executive Director

on the occasion of the Special Session of the General Assembly on Children

New York,
10 May 2002

1. Mr. President, Honourable Heads of State and Government, Honourable Ministers, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

2. As we have heard many times and in many ways during this Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly, children are truly the most vulnerable human beings on earth. From before birth all the way to adulthood, our children must be properly nourished, protected from danger and disease, cared for in illness, educated to become economically productive and infused with a system of values that ensures social stability. Most of these difficult tasks naturally fall to the parents and are carried out, first, in the home.

3. A proper home, ladies and gentlemen, is both a physical place that affords the child and its family protection from a harsh and menacing world and a psychological space that provides comfort and love. It fosters family integration and strengthens the feeling of belonging, security and human solidarity. Home encompasses the house, the neighbourhood and the community that make up a child's living environment - its habitat.

4. The tragedy of the child begins when that habitat becomes vulnerable. Premature rural-to-urban migration, armed conflict, forced eviction and natural disasters are some of the more dramatic and devastating threats to the child's environment, leaving far too many children homeless and exposed, without physical or psychological shelter. More chronic and far more prevalent, especially in the slums of our cities, are threats to the child's well-being posed by inadequate housing, poor sanitation, unsafe drinking water, diseases like HIVAIDS, crime and insecurity.

5. Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, the Habitat Agenda - the global plan of action adopted at the 1996 United Nations Habitat II conference in Istanbul - recognizes that reducing the vulnerability of the child's living environment is a key to sustainable development. It also recognizes that the needs of children living in difficult circumstances must be given special consideration.

6. More specifically, the Habitat Agenda declares that adequate shelter must be recognized as an important component of the particular care and assistance to which children and their families, as well as children living outside or without families, have a right. In this regard, the Habitat Agenda calls for special attention to be given to the shelter needs of vulnerable children, such as street children, refugee children and children who are victims of sexual exploitation.

7. The Habitat Agenda is very clear that adequate shelter means more than a roof over one's head. It also means adequate privacy, adequate space, physical accessibility, adequate security, security of tenure, structural stability and durability, adequate lighting, heating and waste-management facilities, suitable environmental quality and health-related factors, and adequate and accessible location with regard to work and basic facilities.

8. Last year, five years after it adopted the Habitat Agenda, the General Assembly - in its Declaration on Cities and Other Human Settlements in the New Millennium - took note, with satisfaction, of the growing awareness of the need to address, in an integrated manner, poverty, homelessness, unemployment, lack of basic services and the exclusion of women and children. In that Declaration,, the General Assembly also resolved to encourage social and economic policies that are designed to meet the housing needs of families and their individual members, with particular attention to the care of children.

9. Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to tell you that through a coordinated set of global campaigns, programmes, field projects and partnerships, UN-HABITAT is working at all levels to improve the living environment for children around the world, particularly in the slums of our cities.

10. In this regard, I wish to announce that, with support from the Rockefeller Foundation, UN-HABITAT has launched a Global Community-based Shelter Imitative for HIV/AIDS Orphans, the numbers of which have swelled to over 7 million in subSaharan Africa, alone.

11. Mr. President, Honourable Heads of State and Government, Honourable Ministers, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen, UN-HABITAT's staff of highly experienced professionals is fully committed to promoting child-friendly human settlements and adequate shelter according to the principles adopted in the Habitat Agenda.

12. I thank you for your kind attention.