at the United Nations Special Session of the General Assembly on Children

Mr. President,
Mr. Secretary General,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure to take part in this important gathering aimed at the benefit of all children in the world. The United Nations Special Session of the General Assembly on Children is a historic opportunity for us to make the needs and rights of children a priority in all development efforts, thus to ensure a better, healthier and safer environment for every child. There could not be a nobler and more precious cause than creating a world fit for children.

I would like to take this opportunity to express special recognition for the Secretary-General's report, which highlights effectively the issues of concern to children, giving them a global perspective. This forward-looking, comprehensive, frank and objective analysis of the situation of the world's children and the problems that children continue to face can guide us in our future efforts.

Mr. President,

It was twelve years ago at the World Summit for Children that the world leaders called for a joint action in securing a better world - a world of equal opportunities for every single child. Significant progress has been made since then in promoting and protecting the rights of the child and in assuring the well being of our children. Now is the time to renew and reaffirm the commitments made twelve years ago, as well as to review the progress and achievements made for children in the decade following the World Summit for Children and the World Declaration and the Plan for Action and for formulating the specific actions and programs for years to come.

The key and pressing issues from the past decade such as children's health, education, elimination of poverty, exploitation, still remain central to the new global goals.

Nevertheless, we should not forget the newer challenges on child protection and HIV/AIDS.

Mr. President,

The Republic of Macedonia attaches utmost importance to the international activities, particularly those within the UN system, to promote the rights of children all over the world. After more than a decade of experience in implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child, this is a perfect occasion to reaffirm the commitment and the political will to implement this important international treaty. It is not time just to learn more about what is being done for the well-being of children, but for every individual, every family, every society and every political leadership, every state and organization, to do the utmost. The success relies on our determination and sustained action towards pursuing the key goals: promoting healthy lives, providing quality education, protecting children from abuse, exploitation and violence, namely it depends on our ability to address the major challenges of our time: poverty, scourge of war and terrorism and HIV/AIDS pandemic and the risks it poses to children.

Mr. President,

The bitter experience of the region of South-East Europe in the past decade, including the most recent events in my country, are yet another proof of the imperative for the full implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its two Optional Protocols. My Government is making efforts to review its legislation and adopt appropriate amendments to ensure full conformity with the Convention, i.e. to ensure that its provisions and principles are reflected, applied and enforced in state policy and administrative practices. The National Action Plan has been incorporated into a national development plan, social policies and sectorial programme.

Macedonia has signed the Optional Protocol for Involvement of Children in Armed Conflicts and the Optional Protocol on Trafficking of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography. Furthermore, the National Commission for the implementation of the National Action Plan was established for the effective evaluation and implementation of the rights of the child, as stipulated in the Convention. The Ombudsperson for children's rights was also appointed within the National Ombudsman Office.

I would also like to stress the good cooperation between the Government of the Republic of Macedonia and UNICEF in the field of child protection, especially in the area of primary health care and education. We are now in the process of signing of the third Master Plan of Operation, for the period 2002-2004. Programme activities are expected to be of direct benefit to the entire child population, under the age of eighteen, which are approximately 650.000 children in the Republic of Macedonia. A special emphasis is given to the activities related to the reduction of infant prenatal and maternal mortality rates, and to the better formal pre-school education, covering the social, intellectual, psychological, emotional and physical aspects of the child's development, especially for, children from rural and ethnic communities. In addressing this issue, the Government services will closely collaborate with the local communities, national NGO network and international organizations and NGOs, which have largely contributed to the success of the projects in the past.

Mr. President,

The almost universal adoption and ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child makes it even more important that all state parties to the Convention fully respect and implement its provisions. Recalling the promises of the World Summit for Children, lessons drawn from the past, assessments of what remains to be done, I am convinced that the adoption of the Declaration and Plan of Action at the present Special Session will be a clear expression of our political will and partnership in carrying out our joint task of promoting children's rights. Let us not forget the days of our own childhood and what we dreamed about while waiting for the adults to arrange our world. Let us do better, let us do more...

Thank you.