Willemijn Aerdts
Netherlands Youth Representative and Eveline Herfkens Netherlands Minister For Development Cooperation

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

New York,
9 May 2002

As a development minister, I have always said that donors should stop lecturing and start listening to recipient countries. As an adult, I feel we should stop lecturing and instead start listening to our young people. I therefore would like to give the floor first to Willemijn Aerdts, our youth representative.


The fact that I am standing here means that youth participation is taken seriously, but the fact that I am only one of the few youth representatives standing here means that is it not taken seriously enough. We are experts in our own field. We must not only be consulted, but we must involved in the whole decision making process.

Looking at the current state of the outcome document, we, as young people, are really concerned on the issue of reproductive and sexual health. Every year there is a ten percent increase in the HIV infected people. That means 5 infections every second, and half of the newly infected are children.

Roughly ten percent of all births in the world are attributed to adolescents. Every year, 14 million adolescent girls become mothers. 130 million women have been circumcised, with an additional 2 million girls and women undergoing the procedure every year.

Young people themselves already acknowledge these problems and they want to fight them! Now it is time for governments to open their eyes! Governments cannot deny that young people are having sex. Governments committed themselves in Cairo to make reproductive and sexual health services accessible for all children and young people, without discrimination. They must provide honest information, health services, and contraceptives. The subject of sexuality must be discussed in the open, without prejudice. Services and information are a right, not a favour.

Young people themselves must be involved in this process from an early age on: like I said, they are experts in their own field. A good way to spread the information on reproductive health and services is through young people themselves, by peer education.

To conclude, our participation here is only the beginning. Young people are equal partners, and together with adults, parents, NGOs, local authorities and governments they should take action and ... Say Yes for Children!


I say yes for children!

The protection, but also the empowerment of children and adolescents needs our constant attention and our commitment. This Special Session shows the special responsibility the international community feels for an age group that often bears the brunt of human suffering in the present, but that also carries our hopes for the future.

Since the Summit of 1990, great progress has been made. We have formulated crucial commitments in Cairo, Beijing and within the ILO. The Convention on the Rights of the Child has become the most successful human rights treaty in history. Developing partners, including UNICEF and UNFPA, have helped halving child deaths from diarrhoea. More babies are being breastfed. Iodised salt has prevented brain damage with 90 mln newly-borns. Millions of children's lives have been saved because they were immunised in time, and more children than ever are going to school. And at the recent Development Committee, a great boost was given to the Education For All initiative, following the Education For All conference I was privileged to host in Amsterdam.

In addition, we undertook the solemn commitment of the Millennium Development Goals, the achievement of which would have a major impact on children's lives.
But we have to work to live up to the commitments made. One thing we teach our children is that a deal is a deal. But as far as living up to commitments is concerned, the process of this conference has concerned me. Why did we renegotiate agreements of recent years? Is the UN not the place to build international consensus, instead of building a house of cards that can be destroyed as soon as the spotlights of international attention fade? Why is a deal not a deal here? We risk wasting time and wasting resources. But frankly, we are wasting trust, that vital resource that does not come in ample supply.

The latest figures on the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals show we are in serious trouble, and we may not reach the goals. We have no time to lose and no resources to waste. We recommit ourselves to the agreements of Cairo, Beijing and Monterrey, and we should get back to work to implement them.
Monterrey forged a partnership for achieving the Millennium Development Goals that can help make Doha the true development round, and it can help make the World Sustainable Development Summit a success. Through mutual undertakings, we will have' to make donor countries live up to the long established 0.7 percent of GDP ODA standard, in accordance with specific timeframes as agreed in Monterrey. No low income country' with a credible poverty reduction strategy should fail because of lack of external funding. Developing countries in turn increasingly put their own house' in order, and take responsibility for the quality of their policies and the functioning of their institutions.

These commitments impact children's lives, and their lives will impact development. So let us not forget the commitments we reaffirmed here as we head to Johannesburg, just as we should not forget Monterrey.

This recently became very clear to me once again, as I met with a group of children in the Netherlands, and explained to them our commitment to the Millennium Development Goals, including most importantly the halving of the number of people living on less than a dollar a day by 2015. A 9 year old girl stood up and asked me: "Why only by 2015?" I had a hard time telling her why.

I want that girl to find out in 2015 that we did live up to the deal and made the Millennium Development Goals happen. For that, we do not need more summits and more commitments. We need action. We need implementation. That implies hard work ... and lots of cash!

You know you can count on us, the Netherlands.