H.E. DATO' DR. HAJJAH SITI ZAHARAH SULAIMAN
MINISTER OF NATIONAL UNITY AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
THE 27TH SPECIAL SESSION OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY ON CHILDREN
AT THE UNITED NATIONS NEW YORK
FRIDAY, 10 MAY 2002
Mr. President Excellencies
Nation states are like family systems-measured by their economic status, the splendour of their form and other physical attributes, yet not excluding the human face or rather, soul of the living body. And yet, it seems that the desired balance of the human state has since been much eroded, embattled and its issues remain unresolved.
A decade ago, the walls of this auspicious assembly echoed with the proclamation "...that there can be no task nobler than giving every child a better future...." We had promised then to protect them and to diminish their suffering, to promote the fullest development of their human potential and to make them aware of their needs, their rights and their opportunities. Unfortunately, after more than 10 years, the reports of our children at this Special Session is testimony that some of the goals we had set out earlier are still unfulfilled.
Many developing countries are apprehensive. Globalization that we embrace has not been able to solve our fundamental problems. In developing countries, chronic poverty remains the greatest obstacle to fulfilling the development goals for children. Despite a $30 trillion global economy, some 40 percent of children in developing countries are surviving on less than $1 a day, forcing millions of them to engage in some form of labour. Millions of children are malnourished, nearly 120 million are still out of school - 55 percent of them girls. Nearly 11 million children die each year before their fifth birthday, and their existence are increasingly at risk because of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Children are the most helpless victims of conflict. The waves of violence that have swept across the world in recent years have displaced an enormous number of people, most of whom are innocent women and children. Political and civil upheavals tear many countries apart. There has been an increased use of children as combatants and pawns in the deadly game of warfare played and orchestrated, sadly, by adults much like us. Hundreds and thousands of children have been forced to take part in armed conflict as soldiers, sex slaves or porters. Countless children, including girls of very tender age, have been scarred psychologically by the violence and trauma they have undergone.
The plight of Palestinian children and children under foreign occupation
is a sad state of affairs, as we fail to find any solution, political or
otherwise, to the problem of the Middle East. The other area of concern
to my delegation is the debilitative effect of sanctions on children. We
therefore urge that all future sanctions - if at all they need be invoked
as a necessary measure of last resort - should only be imposed after an
in-depth and careful study of their potential impact on civilians, especially
children, has been carried out.
This Special Session is indeed an opportune moment for us to learn from the lessons, shortcomings, mistakes and failures of the past so that we may strive to reach the remaining Summit goals and the call of the Millennium Declaration. Malaysia has been fortunate to have acquired the necessary and sufficient skills, resources and experience to achieve notable levels of success. Malaysia's multi-ethnic society had gone through the process of laying down the basic building blocks of social development and national unity strategies, which in essence became the cornerstone of our short- and long-term 20-year National Vision Policy - inspired by our Rt. Hon. Dato' Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the Prime Minister of Malaysia.
Significant progress has been made since the 1990 Summit. The first National Plan of Action for Children in the 90's (1991-2000) had addressed the issues of survival and protection of Malaysian children. We achieved fully 11 out of the 13 objectives of the Plan. As a follow-up to this, the second National Plan of Action for Children (2001-2020) better known in its abbreviated form as the NPA 2020 will be focusing on the issues of development and participation of children in Malaysia in anticipation of the impending globalisation. We had made good the promise we made in Beijing to form a National Advisory and Consultative Council on Children in Malaysia, just as we made good our commitment to bring 12 of our children from Malaysia to this Special Session today. The Council I referred to earlier has the role of facilitating the monitoring of the evaluation and implementation of the country Plan.
Let not the hopes of our children present and participating here, today,
be dashed by our inactiveness and lack of seriousness. The United Nations
has always been held in lofty ideals, particularly by children, as a beacon
of hope and a repository of justice to the dispossessed and the under-privileged.
The final outcome document that will be adopted at the end of this session,
I am certain, will re-invigorate our firm commitment, through present and
future initiatives, for global peace and security for all generations to
come across culture, religion, and ethnicity. Let us not disappoint our
young ones and move beyond pronouncements to affirmative and effective
Mr. President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
As a mother, a member of society and a policy maker, I stand humbly
before this esteemed Assembly to appeal on behalf of our children all over
the world. Let us responsibly rise to address this moral challenge for
the sake of our children and our children's children. All of us here touch
the future through our children - I know you will not let them down. With
all your voices, your actions and your will, let us together reject the
violence, discrimination and abuse, let us uphold fairness and justice,
let us teach our children the cardinal virtues or courage, honour and strength
of spirit that we have fostered through our brotherhood of nations. Because,
if I may be so bold as to recall before you the words of one literacy scholar
who said "Even as we speak the bones of our little ones are forming, their
blood is coursing through their veins, their hearts are beating, our children
are growing and they can no longer wait. To them we cannot say, tomorrow.
Their name is today!