LESOTHO


STATEMENT


BY
HIS MAJESTY KING LETSIE III
HEAD OF STATE OF THE KINGDOM OF LESOTHO


AT THE


27TH SPECIAL SESSION OF THE
UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY ON CHILDREN

8 MAY 2002, NEW YORK

 
 

MR. PRESIDENT, DISTINGUISHED DELEGATES, DISTINGUISHED CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,
MR. PRESIDENT,

WE BRING YOU WARM GREETINGS AND FELICITATIONS FROM THE PEOPLE OF LESOTHO ON THIS AUSPICIOUS OCCASION AS YOU PRESIDE OVER THE SPECIAL SESSION CHIDLREN. THIS SESSION COMES AT A CRITICAL TIME WHEN THE WORLD IS GRAPPLING WITH THREATS AND CHALLENGES CONCERNING THE WELFARE OF CHILDREN.
 

MR. PRESIDENT,

MORE THAN A DECADE AGO, THE WORLD SUMMIT FOR CHILDREN WAS HELD HERE AT THE UNITED NATIONS HEADQUARTERS. THAT SUMMIT ADOPTED A DECLARATION AND PLAN OF ACTION IN WHICH WE, THE WORLD LEADERS, JOINTLY COMMITTED OURSELVES TO GIVE EVERY CHILD A BETTER FUTURE. WHEN WE TAKE STOCK OF THE PROGRESS ATTAINED IN PURSUIT OF THOSE UNDERTAKINGS AND COMMITMENTS, THE RECORD IS A MIXED ONE. WHILE NOTABLE PROGRESS HAS BEEN MADE IN THE REALISATION OF THE GOALS ENSHRINED IN THE DECLARATION, NEW THREATS AND CHALLENGES HAVE SURFACED, MAKING IT NECESSARY FOR US TO MEET ONCE AGAIN TO REVIEW OUR PERFORMANCE, FORMULATE NEW STRATEGIES, AND SET NEW GOALS, IN OUR BID TO CREATE A BETTER WORLD FOR CHILDREN.

FOR MOST OF US IN THE DEVELOPING WORLD, PARTICULARLY IN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA, THE CENTRAL CHALLENGES WE FACE IN FULFILLING THE OBLIGATIONS WHICH WE UNDERTOOK IN 1990 INCLUDE INSECURITY, SEVERE AND WIDESPREAD POVERTY, FAMINE, ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION, INTERNAL CONFLICTS AND THE SPREAD OF DISEASES INCLUDING HIV/AIDS AND MALARIA. FOR US THEREFORE, A WORLD FIT FOR CHILDREN MEANS A WORLD WHERE CHILDREN ARE NOT KILLED, MAIMED OR DISPLACED BY INCESSANT ARMED CONFLICTS; A WORLD WHERE CHILDREN ARE NOT FORCIBLY RECRUITED INTO MILITARY SERVICES; A WORLD WHERE CHILDREN ARE NOT SUBJECTED TO AND TRAUMATIZED BY SEXUAL VIOLENCE AND MUTILATIONS. ABOVE ALL, IT IS A WORLD WHERE CHILDREN ARE NOT ORPHANED AND LEFT DESTITUTE BECAUSE OF AIDS AND HUNGER. IN SHORT, IT IS A WORLD WHERE CHILDREN ARE NURTURED AND ARE ALLOWED TO GROW UP TO FULL ADULTHOOD IN A TRANQUIL ENVIRONMENT THAT PERMITS THEM TO DISPLAY THEIR NATURAL TALENTS AND CREATIVITY.
 

MR. PRESIDENT,

SINCE THE LAST SUMMIT, NOTABLE SUCCESSES HAVE BEEN RECORDED IN THE GLOBAL MOVEMENT FOR CHILDREN'S RIGHTS. THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE MACHEL STUDY ON THE IMPACT OF WAR ON CHILDREN HAS LED TO THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE OFFICE OF THE SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE SECRETARY-GENERAL FOR CHILDREN AND ARMED CONFLICT. THIS DEVELOPMENT STRENGTHENS THE INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE TO CHILDREN IN SITUATIONS OF STRIFE BY ENABLING THE SECURITY COUNCIL TO TAKE ACTION FOR THEIR PROTECTION.

IN THIS CONTEXT, WE WELCOME THE PROMULGATION OF THE OPTIONAL PROTOCOL RELATED TO THE RECRUITMENT OF CHILDREN, BOYS AND GIRLS, INTO MILITARY SERVICE BY EITHER NATIONAL OR NON-STATE PARTY FORCES AND SECURITY COUNCIL RESOLUTION 1261. MY GOVERNMENT SUPPORTS EFFORTS BY UNITED NATIONS ORGANIZATIONS AND OTHER INTERNATIONAL PARTNERS TO IMPLEMENT THESE PROVISIONS WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT.

SINCE THE LAST SUMMIT, THE WORLD COMMUNITY HAS FORMULATED LEGAL PROTECTIONS FOR CHILDREN EXPOSED TO HAZARDOUS FORMS OF CHILD LABOUR AND CHILDREN CAUGHT IN THE INSIDIOUS TRAP OF COMMERCIAL SEXUAL EXPLOITATION. THE AFRICAN CHARTER ON THE RIGHTS AND WELFARE OF THE CHILD HAS COME INTO FORCE AND THE OVERSIGHT MECHANISM IS BEING ESTABLISHED. THESE DEVELOPMENTS GLOBALLY AND REGIONALLY, EMBOLDEN NATIONAL GOVERNMENTS TO TAKE ACTION THAT WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE LIVES OF THEIR CHILDREN.
 

MR. PRESIDENT,

THE GOVERNMENT OF THE KINGDOM OF LESOTHO HAS SUCCESSFULLY DISSEMINATED THE CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD IN SESOTHO THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY. YOUNG PEOPLE AND NATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS ARE PLAYING AN ACTIVE ROLE IN THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE CONVENTION. IN A RELATED DEVELOPMENT, CHILDREN AND YOUTH HAVE PARTICIPATED ACTIVELY IN NATIONAL, REGIONAL, AND INTERNATIONAL PREPARATORY MEETINGS FOR THIS SPECIAL SESSION, GIVING CHILDREN IN LESOTHO AN OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE MEANINGFUL CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE OUTCOME DOCUMENT.    THIS EXERCISE WAS UNDERTAKEN WITH THE FIRM BELIEF THAT CHILDREN HAVE A RIGHT TO EXPRESS THEMSELVES FREELY AND THAT THEIR VIEWS SHOULD BE RESPECTED AND PROMOTED IN ALL MATTERS AFFECTING THEM. MOREOVER, YOUNG PEOPLE ARE TAKING PART IN PROCESSES OF LAW REFORM AS WELL AS IN THE FORMULATION OF A NATIONAL VISION FOR OUR LONG-TERM DEVELOPMENT. AS A YOUNG NATION WITH A YOUNG POPULATION, LESOTHO VALUES THE CONTRIBUTION OF CHILDREN AND YOUTH IN OUR COUNTRY'S ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT.

THE GOVERNMENT AND PEOPLE OF LESOTHO SHARE THE VIEW THAT ACCESS TO BASIC EDUCATION AND LITERACY IS A FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT OF EVERY CHILD. WE ARE ALSO COMMITTED TO PROVIDING A HEALTHY START IN LIFE FOR THE YOUNG CHILD IN RECOGNITION OF THEIR RIGHT TO CARE AND AS AN INVESTMENT IN SUCCESSFUL LEARNING LATER IN CHILDHOOD.    GUIDED BY THIS PRINCIPLE AND FOLLOWING THE MILLENNIUM SUMMIT, LESOTHO TOOK THE BOLD STEP OF INTRODUCING UNIVERSAL FREE PRIMARY EDUCATION. BY 2006, ALL THE PRIMARY SCHOOL CHILDREN THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY WILL HAVE ACCESS TO BASIC EDUCATION. SINCE THE LAUNCH OF THE FREE PRIMARY EDUCATION, WE HAVE WITNESSED DRAMATIC INCREASES IN SCHOOL ENROLMENT, WITH MANY OLDER CHILDREN NOW EAGERLY BEGINNING THEIR SCHOOLING. AS PART OF THIS NATIONAL CAMPAIGN, LITERACY PROGRAMMES FOR OUT OF SCHOOL YOUTH HAVE BEEN EXPANDED AND COMMUNITY BASED EARLY CHILD DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMMES ARE BEING INTRODUCED.

IN THE FOOD AND NUTRITION SECTOR, INTENSIVE EFFORTS ARE BEING MADE TO COMBAT MICRONUTRIENT DEFICIENCY THROUGH FOOD FORTIFICATION WITH VITAMIN "A", AND OTHER SUPPLEMENTS. THE NATIONAL CAMPAIGN FOR UNIVERSAL SALT IODIZATION IS ON-GOING. SATISFACTORY PROGRESS HAS BEEN RECORDED IN UNIVERSAL IMMUNIZATION COVERAGE AS WELL AS IN UNIVERSAL ACCESS TO SAFE DRINKING WATER AND SANITARY MEANS OF WASTE DISPOSAL. THE COMMUNITY HEALTH WORKER IS CENTRAL TO ENSURING THAT COMMUNITIES HAVE ACCESS TO BASIC HEALTH SERVICES AND PREGNANT WOMEN HAVE ACCESS TO QUALITY ANTENATAL CARE.
 

 MR. PRESIDENT,

AS OUR EFFORTS BEGIN TO BEAR FRUIT, NEW CHALLENGES HAVE ARISEN. CHIEF AMONG THESE, IS THE PREVALANCE OF THE DEADLY HIV/AIDS DISEASE PARTICULARLY AMONG THE YOUTH AND CHILDREN. HIV/AIDS TOGETHER WITH INCREASING LEVELS OF POVERTY DOES NOT ONLY THREATEN TO UNDO MUCH OF THE PROGRESS WE HAVE MADE IN THE HEALTH SECTOR, BUT IS ALSO LARGELY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DISINTEGRATION OF FAMILIES; LOSS OF HOUSEHOLD INCOME; INCREASED CHILD LABOUR, NEGLECT, EXPLOITATION AND LOWER SCHOOL ENROLMENT. THE CHANGING STRUCTURES OF THE FAMILY UNIT CAUSED BY THE INCREASING HOUSEHOLD POVERTY, UNEMPLOYMENT AND MIGRANT LABOUR, HAVE ERODED THE TRADITIONAL SUPPORT STRUCTURES FOR CHILDREN WITHOUT PARENTAL CARE INCLUDING THOSE ORPHANED BY HIV/AIDS. THE NEED FOR THE COMMUNITY AS A WHOLE TO ASSUME NEW ROLES AS CARE PROVIDERS FOR MOST VULNERABLE CHILDREN HAS BECOME EVEN MORE URGENT. AS A RESULT, WE ARE DETERMINED TO PERSEVERE AND TO REDIRECT OUR SCARCE RESOURCES TOWARDS BUILDING AN ENVIRONMENT FOR CHILDREN THAT IS CONSISTENT WITH THE CORE VALUES, PRINCIPLES AND COMMITMENTS ENSHRINED IN THE CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD. BECAUSE OF THE COMPLEXITY OF THE TASK AT HAND AND THE SUBSTANTIAL
FINANCIAL AND TECHNICAL RESOURCES REQUIRED TO IMPLEMENT IT, WE ARE HOPEFUL THAT THE UN SYSTEM AND THE    INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY WILL CONTINUE TO ASSIST US IN OUR EFFORTS TO REALISE ALL THE RIGHTS OF OUR CHILDREN.
IN CREATING A CONDUCIVE ENVIRONMENT FOR CHILDREN'S DEVELOPMENT, WE HAVE TO ADDRESS IN A HOLISTIC MANNER, THE SOCIAL, ECONOMIC AND IDEOLOGICAL FACTORS WHICH HAVE INHIBITED THE FULFILLMENT OF OUR OBLIGATIONS UNDER THE CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD. IN PROTECTING CHILDREN AND CHARTING A NEW COURSE FOR THEIR FUTURE, WE WILL HAVE TO REDOUBLE OUR EFFORTS IN ERADICATING POVERTY. AS WE ALL KNOW, CHILDREN ARE HARDEST HIT BY POVERTY BECAUSE IT STRIKES AT THE VERY ROOTS OF THEIR POTENTIAL FOR DEVELOPMENT - THEIR GROWING MINDS AND BODIES.

 ADDITIONALLY, WE WILL HAVE TO CHANGE OUR MIND-SET AND TREAT EVERY CHILD AS A PERSON WHO HAS INTRINSIC VALUES AND WHOM NATURE HAS ENDOWED WITH UNIQUE GIFTS WHICH HAVE THE POTENTIAL TO ENRICH OUR LIVES IMMEASUREABLY, IF THEY ARE ALLOWED TO FLOURISH.
 

MR. PRESIDENT,

BEFORE I CONCLUDE MY REMARKS, I WOULD LIKE TO PAY TRIBUTE TO ALL THE PEOPLE INVOLVED IN THE PREPARATORY WORK FOR THIS MEETING. MY SPECIAL TRIBUTE GOES TO AMBASSADOR DURRANT OF JAMAICA, CHAIRPERSON OF THE PREPARATORY COMMITTEE, FOR HER METICULOUS PREPARATIONS AND FOR HER ROBUST EFFORTS IN FINALIZING THE PLAN OF ACTION AND DECLARATION FOR OUR MEETING.

MUCH OF THE SUCCESS OF THIS MEETING REFLECTS THE TIRELESS EFFORTS AND DEDICATION OF THE COUNTRY OFFICES OF THE UNITED NATIONS AGENCIES AND CHILDRENS' RIGHTS ORGANIZATONS, IN PARTICULAR UNICEF, AND SAVE THE CHILDREN ALLIANCE.
 

MR. PRESIDENT,

THE SUCCESSES AND FAILURES OF THE PAST DECADE IN PURSUING THE 1990 WORLD SUMMIT GOALS AND IMPLEMENTING THE CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD, HAS TAUGHT US MANY LESSONS. IT IS THEREFORE OUR DUTY TO DRAW ON THE LESSONS LEARNED AS WE RE-COMMIT OURSELVES TO CREATING A SAFER, FAIRER AND HEALTHIER WORLD FOR OUR CHILDREN. THE SECRETARY- GENERAL'S REPORT - "WE THE CHILDREN" - TELLS US THAT OUR FAILURES TO ACHIEVE MOST OF THE GOALS OF THE WORLD SUMMIT FOR CHILDREN HAVE NOT BEEN BECAUSE THOSE GOALS WERE TOO AMBITIOUS, UNAFFORDABLE OR TECHNICALLY BEYOND OUR REACH, BUT LARGELY BECAUSE THE REQUISITE POLITICAL DECISIONS WERE NOT MADE. IN THIS REGARD, I SHARE THE VIEWS OF THE SECRETARY-GENERAL WHEN HE SAYS THAT IN ORDER TO SECURE A BETTER FUTURE FOR OUR CHILDREN, "LEADERS AT EVERY LEVEL OF GOVERNMENT AND CIVIL SOCIETY MUST EXERT THE POLITICAL WILL NECESSARY TO BRING ABOUT A DECISIVE SHIFT IN NATIONAL PRIORITIES - TO MAKE INVESTMENTS IN THE WELL-BEING OF CHILDREN THE OVERARCHING UNASSAILABLE GOAL. THE SPECIAL SESSION ON CHILDREN MUST BE THE JUNCTURE AT WHICH THIS GREAT STEP IS TAKEN". I SINCERELY AND EARNESTLY HOPE THAT ALL OF US WILL HEED THIS CALL FOR THE SAKE OF ALL THE WORLD'S CHILDREN.
 

I THANK YOU FOR YOUR ATTENTION.