Right Honourable Sir Anerood Jugnauth, K.C.M.G., P.C., Q.C.,
Prime Minister of the Republic of Mauritius

on the occasion of the Special Session of the General Assembly on Children

New York,
9 May 2002

Mr. President
Ladies and Gentlemen,

As we are speaking here today innocent children in different parts of the globe, especially in the Middle East and in Africa are falling victims to the atrocities of conflicts. It is not because of the lack of mechanisms to protect children but rather the lack of political will to translate into actions the provisions of the relevant international and regional conventions for the protection of children.

While we acknowledge the fact that with the adoption of the Plan of Action at the World Summit for Children in 1990, the life of our children has significantly improved, it is obvious that more needs to be done to ensure a better future for them.

In his speech yesterday, the Secretary General enumerated the rights children have and which they should be allowed to enjoy freely.  Every effort must be made by all of us to ensure that children get and enjoy those rights especially those  Children who continue to be the most vulnerable victims of worsening economic conditions in the developing world.

Diseases, such as HIV-AIDS, are causing despair among the younger generation, in particular in the sub-Saharan Africa. Prompt action is required to reverse these trends.

We are all aware of the legitimate needs and aspirations of our children and what make them happy in life.  These should guide us in working towards a world fit for them. Let our meeting here to day be an opportunity to take a common and solemn pledge to make the world a better place for our children.  Let us learn from each other's experience on how we have implemented policies to promote the welfare of children.

In anticipation of this Special Session of the General Assembly, we successfully launched in Mauritius the SAY YES FOR CHILDREN CAMPAIGN.  Different stakeholders, Government institutions, NGOs, community-based organisations and parents themselves participated in the success of the campaign.

More than 230 000 people, including children and adolescents or 22% of the Mauritius population actually participated in the vote to determine the priorities for the children of our country.  The vote identified three top priorities: educate every child, care for every child and stop harming and exploiting children.

Mr President

As a party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child Mauritius has undertaken necessary measures to incorporate many of the provisions contained in the Convention in the best interest of its children. We have enacted the Child Protection Act in 1994 to ensure protection of children from all forms of abuse and exploitation.  Mauritius has brought amendments to more than 24 of its enactments providing severe penalties for all cases of exploitation and abuses. It has ratified and translated into its domestic legislation the ILO Convention on the elimination of child labour.

My Government created a special portfolio in the Ministry of Women's Rights and Family Welfare to cater for the specific responsibilities of Child Development.  The right to education being fundamental, our children are enjoying free access to education at all levels.  Since 1995 we have made primary education compulsory.

Public health care services are free and easily accessible through an extensive network of hospitals, health-care centres and community health centres, which provides comprehensive health care including prenatal and early child development.  Mauritius provides free immunisation services for the wide range of infant diseases as recommended by the World Health Organization.

As a responsible Government, we have taken effective steps to contain the negative side effects of rapid socio-economic development on children without putting into jeopardy our strategy for economic progress. To encourage an increased accessibility to information and communication technology, we have launched a major school IT project.

Conscious of the negative impact of the Internet culture on our children and youths we are taking bold steps to shield our children from harmful exposure.

For a successful implementation of a comprehensive programme for the benefit of children the participation of NGOs is essential.  In Mauritius the Government works very closely with grass-root organizations as well as with international bodies and agencies in this regard.

Our thanks also go to the UNICEF for its valuable support to projects aimed at improving the welfare of children in general.  UNICEF has maintained an active presence in Mauritius over the past three decades.  Its expertise has been crucial in implementing Government programmes targeted at children.  We intend to explore new avenues of co-operation between this UN agency and Mauritius once we will no longer qualify for direct assistance in view of our per capita income.

Mr President,

In a statement yesterday the Security Council expressed concern at the grave impact of armed conflict in all its aspects on children. Through this statement the Council stressed the need for global action in the protection of children.   My delegation welcomes this initiative and we will work closely in the Security Council to ensure its effective implementation.

My delegation looks forward to the adoption of the Draft Declaration.  It is the hope of my delegation that each one of us will place the interest of children above all other considerations and contribute to the outcome of a Plan of Action which will be practical, realistic and implementable.  Let the Plan of Action be a guide to our future course of action to promote the well being of our children and to protect their future.

 Thank you.