General Assembly 27th Special Session on Children



the Head of Delegation of the REPUBLIC of LITHUANIA
Minister of Social Security and Labour


New York, May 8-10, 2002

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Distinguished delegates,
Dear colleagues,

On behalf of the delegation of Lithuania let me extend our warm greetings to all the participants of this Session of the United Nations General Assembly. I would like to thank the United Nations secretariat for organising this tremendous event, H.E. Secretary General for his excellent and comprehensive report "We, the Children" and H.E. Ambassador Ms. Patricia Durant for her outstanding work.

I believe, that this Special Session that seeks to assess the experience gained and the lessons learnt by the World's nations in the field of children's rights and to set the further objectives for the next decade is very important and significant. It is an important manifestation of the world's desperate wish and need to build child friendly XXI century for the people of different nationalities, cultures and beliefs. I completely agree that the aim of every country and its government should be to build such a World together with the growing generation.

While aligning fully with the statement made by the European Union, I would still like to share with you our national experiences on the issue so important to all of us - children.

In my brief statement of Lithuania's 10-years experience in the field of children's rights, I would like to emphasise that the restoration of Lithuania's independence almost coincided with the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Thus, the basic principles associated with the children's rights established in the Convention have become a part of the national policy of the democratic nation of Lithuania.

Having restored independence in a democratic way, the Lithuanian society faced the inevitable economic and social changes. The decade was marked with a series of reforms: which dealt with the country's economy, administrative government, healthcare, education, social security and etc.

We can say that in the field of health care during the past decade child mortality has decreased. Prenatal care has improved and the state Program of Immunisation that provides for compulsory and accessible vaccination of infants is being implemented. The number of people infected with HIV/AIDS in Lithuania is not high, but we are worried that the increasing rate of drug addiction among teenagers and the youth will increases the risk of the spread of the epidemic.

Speaking about the system of education, I would like to point out that it is considered one of the Government's highest priorities. Girls and boys have equal opportunities for the same level of education from kindergarten through University. This is confirmed by the fact that almost all Lithuanians are literate and prepared to enter the world's labour market.

I completely agree and support the point of view that the family is the main cell of the society and that it bears the biggest responsibility for the future and wellbeing of our children. Realising that a child's wellbeing is primarily associated with the wellbeing and security of his or her family, Lithuania, just like many other UN countries, has adopted the Poverty Diminution Strategy and Program that provides the instruments to overcome this problem. In 2001 the Government of Lithuania adopted a long-term program to develop employment opportunities. This program aims to remove regional disparities in employment thus diminishing poverty and raising the standard of living of the families and at the same time increasing wellbeing of children.

In the field of children's foster care Lithuania seeks to follow the basic principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, i.e. the child's best interest. The foster care system is being changed so, that primarily the preventive instruments, such as social work with families, is implemented. The child's placement within a guardian's family rather than his institutionalisation is put in the first place. Nongovernmental organisations take an active part in these activities. Their practical experience of social work with families and children is highly appreciated.
The importance of the issues of the protection of children's rights in the policy of the Government of Lithuania is demonstrated by the fact that Lithuanian Parliament has established Children's Rights Ombudsman's Institution in 2000.

We do realise that we have made many achievements in the field of protection of the rights of children. But in my opinion children's welfare remains one of the most important parts of the state policy that requires more of our attention.

Violence against children and their commercial or sexual exploitation is among the gravest violations of children's rights. This phenomenon is intolerable and unacceptable. It calls for the efforts of both national and international organisations to protect children from any kind of violence.

The National Program Against the Commercial and Sexual Exploitation of Children was adopted in Lithuania in 2000. The purpose of the Program is to create preventive instruments both nationally and internationally in the Baltic Sea region in order to prevent children from falling victims to such crimes and to create rehabilitation system of for those who become victims of such a crime.

I am glad to inform that on February 13, 2002 Lithuania has signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on Involvement of Children in Armed Conflicts. At the same time, Lithuania supports and speaks in favour of the ratification of the ILO Convention 182 on the Abolition of Unacceptable Forms of Child Labour and is prepared to ratify it.

The participation and initiative of children and the youth in solving the issues of children makes a very significant contribution to the country's national policy. It is my great pleasure to say that the Schoolchildren's Parliament has been established and operates in Lithuania. It is elected democratically by schoolchildren themselves. Its activities have shown that schoolchildren are seriously determined to represent the interests of children and youth.

In conclusion I would like to emphasise that Lithuania is prepared to take part and to join international initiatives aimed to look for the better future for the children and create this future with the children and for the children.

Thank you for your attention.