Vinci N Clodumar
Permanent Representative of Nauru To the United Nations
On behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum Countries at the United Nations At the 27th Special Session of the General Assembly On Children
New York, 8 -10 May
May 9 2002
I have the honor and privilege to deliver this statement on behalf of the 15 Pacific Islands Forum countries who are members of the United. Nations. This is a historic event, and we welcome the participation of children at this Special Session. We are extremely please to note that children from our region had participated in the Children's Forum as well as in the delegations to the Special session.
We recognize with deep appreciation Her Excellency Ambassador Patricia Dun-ant of Jamaica, Chairperson of the Bureau of the Preparatory Committee, Ms Carol Bellamy Executive Director of UNICEF that has acted as the Secretariat to the Preparatory Committee and the staff of the UN Secretariat for their tenacious commitment that has resulted in the action oriented draft outcome document "A World Fit for Children".
The linkage between this outcome document and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is clear. The Financing for Development outcomes from the Monterrey Conference sets out the methodologies for financing development strategies and targets in the MDGs. As a significant social summit this Special Session is timely to incorporate its outcomes in the World Summit on Sustainable Development.
The principles and strategies elaborated in the Beijing Declaration'on
Shaping Future of Children, which has been issued as part of the Special
Session document AJS-27113 is our guide for addressing the challenges and
tasks for our region over the next decade and which, to a great extent,
are mirrored in Plan of Action of the draft outcome document before us.
Accordingly, we endorse the principles and objectives in the political
declaration and in Plan of Action taking into account the specific circumstances
of the member countries.
Most of Pacific Island Forum Countries have ratified or acceded to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The CRC is informing the gradual process of change towards development in the Pacific region.
Traditionally, in Forum Island countries, our children learn from their elders and are brought up in the ways and customs of their community. At a regional Social Development Workshop held in February this year in Suva, Fiji, participants discussed the relevance of international conventions and constraints to their implementation. Notwithstanding this, many FICs are actively implementing the CRC. Most have Coordinating Committees for Children consisting of government, non-government and inter-governmental agencies, particularly UNICEF.
Progress is being constrained by the lack of resources both financial and human; lack of political will and commitment of officials and the lack of coordination among government departments. Reporting skills on CRC and other conventions are scarce.
Children and Poverty
We agree that chronic poverty remains the single biggest obstacle to meeting the needs, and protecting and promoting the rights of children.
To a certain extent poverty exists in the Pacific and is on the increase in many countries. Children bear the brunt of poverty. Poor families cannot afford basic needs such as adequate nutrition, education or health care. The cycle of poverty, where it is replicated from one generation to the next, is becoming apparent, creating an underclass of disadvantaged people and exacerbating social and economic divisions.
Promoting Healthy Lives
Mr. President, We agree that access to health services is essential if children are to receive appropriate care and protection to which they have a right. Pacific Island countries have made much progress in reducing infant and maternal mortality rates in recent decades, but there is room for improvement. The MDGs set targets to aspire to.
The major strategy to improve child health is the integrated management of childhood illness, which focuses on the total environment as well as elements such as nutrition, especially breast feeding, and immunization. FICs are increasingly placing more emphasis on primary preventative health than secondary curative health services.
The concept of Healthy Islands framework that has been adopted by. Pacific Ministers of Health takes a population-focused approach rather than a disease-focused approach and consolidates aspects of health care, social and economic well-being, identifying that:
"...healthy islands should be a place where, children are nurtured in body and mind; environments invite learning and leisure; people work and age with dignity; and ecological balance is a source of pride. "
Providing Quality Education
Mr. President, Education indicators in our region are very good, compared to other developing countries. Our member countries spend in me range of 13 to 30% o of their total government expenditures on education. Compulsory basic education with net enrolment ratios ranging from 88 to 100% is a common feature. However, more resources and attention are needed to boost access to more resource intensive sectors such as early childhood education, post-primary education for girls in some of the FICs and education for the disabled.
The potential for using distance education and information communications technology offer exciting benefits, and our regional university, the University of the South Pacific, has been a forerunner in this area, needs continued support to sustain its work.
To address the issue of quality of education in the FICs, the Education Ministers of the region met in 2001 and the outcome of their meeting is a Basic Education Action Plan that is currently at the project design phase. [This plan covers areas such as teacher training, community support, improving educational planning and data collection, early childhood education, the use of indigenous languages, information technology, financing education, non-formal education and the teaching of governance and civics.]
An urgent concern across the region is how to meet the needs and aspirations of upcoming generations. Many school leavers find that they have inadequate or inappropriate skills for the few waged jobs that are available, for agricultural work or for other types of livelihoods. The lack of opportunity in our Pacific region has been termed the `poverty of opportunity.'
Protecting against abuse, exploitation and violence
Domestic violence is prevalent in many parts of the Pacific and this affects children's welfare. There is growing recognition that such violence is unacceptable and cannot be justified as customary. Non-governmental organisations have taken the lead role in providing support services to victims of domestic violence.
Other issues facing young people include high rates of youth suicide in some FICs; alcohol, tobacco and other substance abuse; sexual and physical abuse. The Secretariat of the Pacific Community runs a number of programmes for young people in the region that provide information, training and support and life skills reinforcement.
Pacific populations have a high proportion of young people and they have particular health needs. Reproductive health is a sensitive subject in Pacific cultures and is rarely addressed in a family context. Typically Young people are poorly informed about reproductive health. High rates of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases are observed. While HIV/AIDS is not as yet widespread, the region is very vulnerable to it. There is a regional HIV/AIDS strategy and individual countries have responded to the pandemic with their respective Strategic Plans of Action.
Mr. President, It is obvious that in the Pacific Islands Forum region, there are programs in place in the health and education sectors that addressed some of the needs of children. More needs to be done to improve coordination and cohesion of crosscutting programs across the sectors.
We are confident that the relatively low profile of the Pacific in UNICEF's overall funding landscape stands to be improved and better strategised in light of the evaluation exercise that UNICEF has just completed. This we hope will assist member countries in our region to pursue holistic and child-centered national development goals in the near future.
We stand ready to play our part in the implementation of the 21 proposed
goals under the Plan of Action and we will do what is necessary to improve
coordination of regional efforts and enhance linkages with the UN system,
other regional bodies, international organisations and NGOs to attain a
world fit for children.