Mary Diaz
 Co-Chair, NGO Steering Group

on the Special Session for Children
of NGO Committee on UNICEF

United Nations Special Session on Children
Friday, May 10, 2002


Thank you. Your Excellencies, Executive Director Carol Bellamy, distinguished delegates,

My name is Mary Diaz and I am Executive Director of the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children. I am also the co-chair of the NGO Steering Group, part of the NGO Committee on UNICEF. It's a pleasure to be here today and to speak on behalf of the Committee.

More than 1700 representatives from nongovernmental organizations have attended this week's Special Session. They are from more than 88 different countries.

Most are from the developing world. This is big difference from the World Summit for Children, when very few NGOs were invited to "listen".

This General Assembly Special Session is different. The United Nations has recognized the important role that civil society organizations play. The presence and participation of children also made a substantial difference and affirmed the CRC call for children's participation. In partnership with governments, UN agencies and others, NGOs provide vital services -- including health care, education, and protection. Perhaps even more importantly, NGOs are critical to monitoring and advocacy for social and legal reforms promoting equality, freedom and justice.

We are able to reach the millions on the margins and provide much-needed assistance to the underserved. Many of the lifesaving achievements for children over the
last decade have been accomplished in partnership with NGOs. In many ways great and small, we are responsible for changing the world for children.

For example, NGOs have led the work to rid the world of landmines. This is thanks to the dedication and commitment of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, a network of more than 1,300 NGOs in 90 countries. Founded in 1992, the campaign has instigated tremendous change in a short time; in December 1997, just five years after it was founded, 122 countries signed a treaty to ban the use, production, stockpile and transfer of antipersonnel mines. To date, more than 142 countries have signed and 122 have ratified the Mine Ban Treaty.

The Global March Against Child Labor, the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, the Child Rights Caucus, the Global Health Council, the Global Movement for Children: these are just a few of the NGO groups linking with others to provide leadership on issues affecting children.

NGOs helped found the UN and are actually mentioned in its Charter. Similarly NGOs are also mentioned in the CRC. NGOs embraced the the idea of the CRC and did not rest until it became a reality. Without the NGOs' actions we wonder if we'll have the CRC. The non-governmental community had hoped that the Outcome Document would be a manifesto for further implementing the CRC. Unfortuneately these efforts were not wholly succesful. If this is the fate of the CRC in the Outcome Document, what message does it send to the world's children about the commitment to children's rights?

But the NGOs will continue to work too achieve our common goals, such as attaining equality for girls and women, protecting children against HIV/AIDS, ending the
exploitation of children and protecting children from war and other violence. We are committed to working together to monitor National Plans of Action as well as
commitments made here. I hope you have had an opportunity to see the NGO Committee's Commitment Chart outlining government, UN and NGO pledges during this, Special Session.

NGOs had limited access to the negotiation process. Governments must recognize that civil society needs to be present and consulted. Citizens are asked to participate in building strong societies and holding their governments accountable. In order to do that we must have access to policy-making work and negotiations like this one.

NGOs have helped give life to the idea of an international community. It's vital to respect and defend their work and keep vigilant when the work is threatened. We will continue to use information technology as well as meetings like this one to build networks and coalitions. Our partnerships with each other create powerful coalitions that no government can ignore.

The last decade has shown the great things that civil society can contribute. The hundreds of children this week are working on and learning how to be guardians of democracy and good governance. We look forward to continuing to work with all of you and breaking the boundaries of what we can achieve together for children worldwide.

Thank you.