Dr. Najma A. Heptulla
President of the IPU Council
on the occasion of the Special Session of the General Assembly on Children
10 May 2002
Distinguished Heads of State and government Honourable delegates,
Children, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to have this opportunity to address this special session of the General Assembly on children on behalf of the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
IPU's commitment to the well being of children and protection of their rights has been long standing. We have spoken out against violence, child exploitation, the scourge of AIDS, and to finance education, health, and other programs
The IPU has strongly supported,' the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child, its ratification and implementation. We have also consistently encouraged parliamentary action to implement the Plan of Action from the World Summit for Children.
At its Conference in Ouagadougou, in September 2001, the IPU issued a comprehensive resolution recognizing the need for "protecting and caring for children, the driving force of future society" and reaffirming our support for the objectives of this special session. This resolution provides a blueprint for parliamentarians everywhere to take decisive action in support of children, and formed the basis for our discussion in the parliamentary forum that UNICEF and IPU organized jointly on 9 May here at the United Nations.
The IPU mobilized parliaments and their members. Over two hundred MPs from over seventy countries participated in this event. Their interventions focused on follow up and implementation; in other words, action. Parliamentarians listened to the children's point of view.
Parliaments and their members have a very special responsibility. We ratify international conventions and agreements. We legislate, adopt budgets, and allocated funds. We oversee the action of government and we are in constant contact with the people so that we can express their views. We also build popular support for action, both nationally and internationally.
It is therefore only natural that many of the suggestions that were made focused on what we, members of parliament can do to build a world fit for children. I will share some of them with you in the short time at my disposal.
Legislation should take a rights based approach to addressing issues of children. The rights of the child should be enshrined in every national constitution. There is also a need for fundamental laws relating to children. The children who participated in the Forum asked parliaments to consult them when making laws.
We also recommend a child-rights audit of all legislations that we pass
to make sure that we know how they will affect children and that they do
so in a positive way.
We should take a similar approach to the national budget. The budget is more than a financial document. It is a major social policy document. We need to know how the budget affects children, directly and indirectly. We believe this can be achieved by analyzing the budget from a child rights perspective.
The overall institutional framework could also be improved. Recommendations were made for establishing a commission or ombudsman for children who would report to Parliament. Other proposals included establishing a parliamentary committee with the specific mandate to address children issues.
Moreover, governments should be invited, some say obliged, to make an annual report to parliament on its policies, programs and action with regard to children. Parliament should hold an annual debate on the issue during which it would also examine this report.
As I said, these were but the highlights of proposals from the parliamentary forum of this Special Session. They call for action, not just words. In the coming months, the IPU and UNICEF will work towards a joint strategy to mobilize further parliamentary support for children. We parliamentarians will remain committed to ensuring a world fit for children. And I hope that commitments made by world leaders will be implemented and will not remain just words.