Hon. Raashida Yoosuf
Minister of Women's Affairs and Social Security
Ministry of Women's Affairs and Social Security Male' Republic of Maldives
Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Children

8-10 May 2002, New York

Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is. indeed, a great privilege for me to address this important gathering. Twelve years ago. we gathered here and pledged ourselves "to give every child a better future." United in the same hope and prompted by the same resolve, we are here today to review the achievement of the coals of the World Summit for Children. and to renew our commitment. Inspired by the positive results in a number of areas and encouraged by the undiminished enthusiasm of the international communiy we should pursue with greater vigour, our efforts to construct a world fit for children. I recognize the elaborate preparations that have been made to ensure the success of this Special Session of the General Assembly.

Mr. President.

The ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by my Government was a milestone in the history of child protection in the Maldives. Although we have never had cross violations of child rights in the Maldives. the CRC has brought to our attention issues that need to be systematically addressed if the rights of all children are to be fulfilled. In fact. it has provided us with a yardstick against which our progress can be measured.

We have made considerable progress in implementing the Convention. The year 1991 was marked as the Year of the Maldivian Child. The same year, a National Plan of Action was drawn up to achieve the goals of the 1990s for children and a law on the protection of the rights of children was passed. A National Council for the Protection of the Rights of Children was established as an advisory body on identifying and addressing issues detrimental to the survival, protection and development of children. In 1992, a special office, the Unit for the Rights of the Child. was created for ensuring child rights. The Convention on the Rights of the Child was translated into Dhivehi, the national language and disseminated throughout the country. Campaigns have been conducted to change attitudes and practices that hamper action towards the promotion and protection of child rights. Furthermore. the groundwork for establishing a national child protection system has been laid and a prototype is in place to pilot study the project.

Mr. President.

The Government of the Maldives recognizes that children's health, education and welfare are central to the development of the nation. In the area of health. the Govemment gives special attention to preventive health. particularly to that of children. Vfe have been able to eradicate diseases such as malaria and polio. Infant mortality rate has been reduced from 120 in 1977 to 20 per thousand now. Child immunization coverase has become universal. The goal of Health fon all by 2005 is what we have aimed at in our national Health 'Master Plan.

In the education sector too. we have achieved remarkable progress. Access to primary education has been universalized. By the year 2020 we aspire to have 10 years of formal schooling as the minimum educational standard for the children of the Maldives. We are also makins concerted efforts to promote home and community based early childhood care and development.

Mr. President. Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen.

The Maldivian sociey has always cherished its young people. Whether they come in conflict with the law, or are made vulnerable by difficult circumstances. they have never been ignored by the society. Community-based rehabilitation has been our tradition. Now, the rehabilitation efforts have been fortified by national policies, legislation. and the creation of monitoring agencies. Developments in this area include the establishment of a Juvenile Court, and a Child Protection Unit within the police.

In the past two decades, the Government of Maldives has been giving particular importance to empowering women as prime actors in the development of the country and in ensuring the best interests of children. As a result, the situation of the girl child and women has improved significantly. Strong measures have been adopted to reduce maternal mortality, to promote safe motherhood and to advance women's health and well-being.

Mr. President.

Some of the major challenges before my country today include the geographical severity, diseconomies of scale due to the scattered nature of the population, strains on the family unit due to the erosion of the vaditional culture, the high incidence of divorce and rapid urbanization. In addition, the breaking up of families adversely affects the social and psychological development as well as the well being of children and women.

Despite such challenges, we have success stories to tell and positive trends to report in the area of protecting child rights. In our quest for a better future, we have proclaimed a national Vision 2020 in which we have envisaged to educate every child. to provide environments that foster self-confidence and self esteem, to cater for the needs of children with disabilities and to prevent all forms of child abuse. Furthermore. our 6th rational Development Plan, reinforces this vision, by planning to review the existing laws on the protection of children and to strengthen enforcement measures. Preparations are underway for establishing appropriate legal and judicial frameworks to deal with children's issues. By the same token, we have begun to assess the situation of children to identify and target services for vulnerable groups. The creation of an institutional mechanism for providing alternative family care is underway. The emerging issue of adolescent health and well-being will be addressed as a prioriy in the coming years.

We in the Maldives believe that investing in children and generating opportunities for them is the only way to ensure a healthier, wealthier and a happier future for our country. To that end, we are encouraging greater initiative and participation by the private sector and the civil society actors. We also believe that working in partnership with the international community is equally important to carry forward our agenda for the promotion and protection of the rights of the child. Therefore, we are happy that we are part of the Global Movement for Children, which is indeed, a model for partnership and participation. It is my hope that the Movement gets stronger and serve as a powerful force in shaping a better future for the world's children.

Mr. President, Excellencies. ladies and gentlemen,

The Maldives is proud of these achievements, we are aware of the magnitude of the challenges that lie ahead of us. Yet. we are determined to pursue the goals of the World Summit for Children leaning on greater donor assistance and stronger international cooperation. We are equally determined to sustain our achievements and prevent them from anv erosion.

Before I conclude. I would like to express my sincere appreciation and heartfelt thanks to our donors and to the UN agencies, especially the United Nations Children's Fund for their continuous support in our efforts to attain the goals of the World Summit for Children. I strongly believe that national commitments and international obligations put together, we will have the strength and the resources to realize the new global vision for children that we are here to promise and proclaim.

Thank you.