I am honored to address this Special Session of the General Assembly on behalf of the Irish Government. The aim of the Special Session is to renew and reaffirm the commitment made by the international community in the 1990 World Declaration on the Survival, Protection and Development of Children. Children are our most precious resource. They deserve to be cherished and nurtured. We must show that we take to heart the message yesterday from the Children's Forum. The Irish Government therefore attaches the utmost importance to a successful conclusion to the work of this Special Session, which itself is firmly anchored in the logic of the Millennium Summit Declaration.
At the outset, let me congratulate Ambassador Patricia Durrant for her excellent stewardship of the work of the Preparatory Committee. She, and the other members of the Bureau, have worked assiduously and we are confident therefore of a successful outcome.
The end of decade report prepared by the Secretary General and UNICEF, "We the Children" , sets out clearly the global efforts over the last ten years to translate the intentions, goals and objectives, set out in the 1990 World Declaration and Plan of Action, into action on the ground.
The Secretary General's report clearly demonstrates the progress made over the last ten years. We can rightly acknowledge the successes: reduction in mortality among children under 5; high and sustained levels of child immunization in most regions of the world; polio close to extinction; and more children in school than ever before.
However, we must also recognize what the Secretary General's report describes as the "depressing continuation of ills familiar to mankind", the continuing unacceptable levels of poverty in many parts of the world, the growing disparities in access to services and wealth, which the report rightly describes as "obscene".
This Special Session is an opportunity to refocus our objectives and to renew our common commitment to genuine action for all our children. We are challenged collectively to take national and international action and to rededicate ourselves to the children of the world, ALL the children of the world. The draft outcome document before us for adoption, "World Fit For Children", identifies clearly the challenges before us over the next ten years.
Ireland has sought to give practical effect to the commitments we undertook in the 1990 World Declaration. Not just because children represent over one third of Ireland 's population but because children matter and the Irish Government is committed to our children.
This has been translated into increased investment and important developments in legislation and services for children throughout the 1990s.
But it is perhaps best demonstrated in the publication in November 2000 of Ireland's first ever comprehensive National Children's Strategy, the vision and goals of which mirror "A World Fit for Children". It is also the single biggest initiative in progressing our implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The National Children's Strategy offers a clear and ambitious vision
Listening to and involving children is a key goal of our National Strategy. A national children's parliament has been established and we have recently passed legislation to establish an Ombudsman for Children to promote and protect children's rights and welfare.
The National Strategy is for all Irish children, but it recognizes at the same time that some of our children need extra support. It sets out real commitments to tackle poverty and social exclusion, so that all our children can enjoy the childhood reflected in our vision.
There is a strong commitment to support children by empowering their families and communities. The National Strategy is therefore being implemented through partnership. A partnership of children, families and local communities supported by the State and the voluntary and private sectors, all of which are stake holders, each with a distinctive part to play.
New national and local structures have been put in place to underpin implementation. These include a Cabinet Committee for Children, which is chaired by the Prime Minister, and a dedicated Minister for Children. The Minister is supported by a new National Children's Office. These new structures will be used to progress the actions set out in a "World Fit For Children".
A similar partnership approach has been a feature of the preparatory process and there is a commitment in the outcome document to strengthening it as part of the implementation process. We strongly endorse this.
The Children's Forum has provided a great opportunity for children and young people from around the world to come together to discuss their views and aspirations. For the first time at the United Nations we have heard children present the outcome of their own discussions. We should aim to expand these opportunities in our own countries, so that children and young people can develop their understanding of civic values in society and grow as responsible citizens, using their talents and abilities to contribute fully to their families, schools and local communities.
At the international level, Ireland supports the practical realization of the goals and objectives envisaged in a "World Fit For Children" through the funding, by Ireland Aid, of key interventions by UNICEF in a number of sectors and environments. The scope and scale of UNICEF's operations is such that it has become one of the largest recipients of Ireland Aid's funding both through our contribution to its core resources and through emergency assistance funding.
Ireland is committed to providing multi-annual funding to UNICEF for 2001-2003. The government contributed €4.11 million in 2001, which was an increase of over 50% on the previous year. Ireland has also made indicative pledges for E5.52 million in 2002 and €8 million in 2003. This commitment marks a rise of 43% in our contribution to UNICEF in 2001, and further rises of 44% and 43% in 2002 and 2003 respectively. By the end of 2003 core funding from Ireland Aid to UNICEF is expected to be €6.3m, which is more than triple the €2.54 million level in 2000.
Political will and the commitment to succeed will be the key determinants of the success in realizing the goals and objectives set out in "A World Fit For Children". On behalf of the Irish Government, I can say that we are fully committed to meeting these goals and objectives and are confident that, with the necessary collective political will, we can make a real difference to the lives of all children.
Thank you, Mr. President