The United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Children





 New York, 9 May 2002

Mr. President,

I am from the privileged North, but also one of all children of the world. I get food every day, have a bed to sleep in and I go to school. These are basic needs that should be met for all children. For many children they are not.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child made a basic change for children. Instead of being perceived as objects or victims, we now have our own rights. It is important that you - the decisionmakers - have these rights in mind whenever you make a decision that will affect children in any way. Most of the issues you as governments or lawmakers deal with, in some way or another have an impact on children. Remember that!

Children should be your most important partners in your work for children. According to article 12 of the Convention all children have the right to express their views in all matters that affect them. We might not show up in your office and tell you what we think you should do. You may have to come to us and ask. I think it will be worth the extra effort because we represent knowledge and experiences that you don't have. We, the children, are experts on being 8, 12 or 17 years old in the societies of today. Nobody knows better what children actually need. To consult us will make your work more effective and give better results for children. My proposal is that you make children part of your team. It is good to see that so many children are represented in Government delegations here at the Special Session. I hope that every government will include children when you now make your national plans of action.

I also hope the hours and hours of discussions on "A world fit for children" will result in a better world for children. If the goals and plans of action in this document are achieved; it could make a big difference to children's lives. Please consult us and make all efforts possible to make it happen.

Mr. President,

What should we do to put children on the agenda?

In one sense nothing. Children are the agenda. Children are at the heart of one and every Millennium Development Goal, beginning with the battle against poverty.
In another sense everything. For our lofty aims will eventually come to nothing unless we uphold and fulfil the rights and the promise to our children. Unless we eliminate poverty as a children's disease. Unless we provide basic education for those without. Unless we stop millions of children dying annually from curable diseases. Unless we prevent a generation of children from becoming orphaned by HIV/AIDS. Unless we stop the abuse and misuse of children.

We have committed ourselves to do so - at the World Summit for Children in 1990. Since then, - progress has been made:

. 3 million more children survived their fifth birthday in 2002 than in 1990. But still, nearly 11 million die annually of preventable diseases.

. More children than ever are receiving basic education. But still, 120 million children are not in school. More than half of them are girls.

. More international rules are in place to protect vulnerable children. But still, millions ark devastated by exploitation, abuse and discrimination.

. The Convention on the Rights of the Child has become the most ratified human rights convention of all. It puts human dignity at the centre. But still, it is violated every day.

Now is the time to stand by our commitments, and to act on them.

First, children must be at the core in our fight against poverty. That cannot be done without additional resources. Both developed and developing countries have to deliver. We must all invest in children. This is at the heart of the Norwegian Plan of Action for Fighting Poverty in the South towards 2015. We have committed ourselves to increase our ODA to 1 percent of GDP by 2005. I urge other rich countries to reach the UN-target of 0,7% of GDP for development assistance and direct it to efficient poverty eradication.

Second, we have to set our priorities straight both in the North and the South. More emphasis must be put on basic social services. A major call is to invest in education and health. Education may well be the single largest exit door from poverty. And girls' education is the key to that door. Immunisation of children does not only reduce suffering. It combats poverty and promotes economic growth.

Third, children in distress must be given special attention.

Armed conflict pose extreme risks to million of children, not only of hunger, disease, and death, but of displacement, bereavement, and traumatising violations of human rights. We must invest much more in conflict prevention. We must do more to protect civilians in armed conflict. Children must be at the core of our efforts. It is encouraging that the Optional Protocol on children in armed conflict to the Convention of the Rights of the Child has now entered into force.

The effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic on children is devastating. We may be facing a nightmarish scenario of 40 million starving, poor orphans by 2010. Orphans without education or employment. Orphans that will provide excellent recruits for criminal gangs, child soldiers, and other forms of exploitation. Orphans in need of care and protection. Things have not yet come to this. Urgent attention - and action - is needed. The battle against AIDS is also a battle for our children.

Fourth, although the challenges are daunting, children must never be seen as part of the problem. They are part of the solution. They are our most important asset. They are our partners for the future. They are our future.