H.E. Dr. Alejandro Toledo
President of the Republic of Peru

at the

9 MAY 2002

Mr. President of the General Assembly,
Mr. Secretary General of the United Nations
Madame Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am honored to be addressing the honorable Assembly of the United Nations in my capacity as President of the Republic of Peru, on this special occasion of the period of extraordinary sessions dedicated exclusively to the children and adolescents of the world. On behalf of the Peruvian people, I tender my special acknowledgement of the labor undertaken by the member states, to the Bureau of the Preparatory Committee, and to the Secretariat in charge of the United Nations Children's Fund, during the process which is culminating this week with the adoption of the document entitled, "A world suitable for children."

My participation in such an important event is an. expression of my government's explicit commitment to promote and protect human rights, as well as to assure the well-being of the young girls, boys and adolescents of Peru, who embody the present and future of our country. The opportunities we offer them today will determine our future.

In accordance with Peru's permanent policy it is essential to reaffirm that the legal and political framework that guides our international actions with respect to childhood and adolescence is based on the Convention of the Rights of the Child, to which we are a signatory, together with 189 other countries, as well as the specific commitments issuing from the 1990 New York Summit on Children, the 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development, the 1995 Beijing Women's Conference, the 1995 Copenhagen Social Development Summit, and the Latin American Summits of Panama in 2000 and Lima in 2001.

In this context, I am pleased to announce that my country has made .the deposit of the instrument of the ratification of the Facultative Protocols of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which have already entered into force, on participation in armed conflicts, prostitution and child pornography.

Mr. President:

In the recent democratic reconquest of Peru, a leading role has been played by young people, who at key moments, with passion and enthusiasm have made outstanding contributions to the reestablishment of the rule of law.

The struggle against poverty within this reestablished democratic framework comprises the central axis of policy for my government. Clearly, children and adolescents are essential constituents in this undertaking 54 % of Peruvians today live at subsistence levels. These figures become even starker when we note that almost 65 % of children and adolescents are subject to these conditions. Without any doubt, those most affected by poverty are our first priority.

Clearly in the fight against poverty in a democratic regime, the poor are themselves the principal actors. We must know their aspirations, their fears, in short, how they see themselves, both in the present and the future: We are investing in programs that have been designed and executed in close collaboration with the beneficiaries.

As you are aware, Peru is a mosaic of different cultures, languages and ethnicities. It is, furthermore, a young country with 40.4 % of the population under 15. The most frightening statistics on poverty and social exclusion concern children and young people from rural areas in the mountains and jungles. It is also there where we suffer the highest rates of infant and maternal mortality, which vastly exceed the rates for urban areas. We must call forth a mighty and sustained effort to reduce these gulfs and move forward in the building of a nation that is adequately developed. This also applies to education. A few weeks ago we began a major campaign to institute bilingual education in Spanish and Quechua in all Andean schools. In general terms, our focus is to guarantee education for all and equity of access, extending from the earliest levels through to job training, while significantly reducing the dropout rate. It is indispensable to restore support for our teachers who provide the keystone of a good education.

To a striking degree it is children and adolescents who are the main victims of discrimination, particularly those who live in rural areas. It is only fair that they should receive most of our attention.

In Peru, we have implemented the project Huascarfin, which consists of the installation of a computer net of national scope oriented to improve substantially the quality of the education, interconnecting schools and public institutions, particularly in areas with highest levels of poverty of the national territory.

Poverty, the unequal distribution of income and social exclusion are the factors that have the most negative impact on children and adolescents. Their effects are grim indeed: premature entry into the labor market, lack of shelter (street children), economic and sexual exploitation, unwanted early pregnancies, clandestine abortions, sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS; drug addiction, alcoholism, and other things. In response we affirm our conviction that good health is the right of all Peruvians. This includes both physical and mental health, as well as sexual and reproductive health. We are preparing to establish health insurance for all citizens.

Peru ascribes particular importance to promoting the rights of adolescents, which we consider a matter of special significance. Clearly, those who live in poverty are among those most injured. In this especially sensitive phase of life, the lack of opportunities for development exacerbates difficulties that have been borne since childhood.

We fully understand that the ravages of poverty and social exclusion are not confined to the direct injuries of inadequate and poorly balanced nutrition, or illiteracy or deficient education. Millions of adults come of age condemned never to realize their potential in the community, and liable to succumb to mass behavior that seeks out "political miracle workers" who stifle their liberty in exchange for a promise of prosperity which, as it happens, is never fulfilled. .

In Peru, the 20% of reduction of military expenses is been oriented for the increase of the investment in nutrition, health, education and justice for the people living in poverty. In this context, the task that we have assumed, of generating employment for the people living in poverty, particularly for the mothers, plays a fundamental role.

Six days ago, my Government presented in a public ceremony the National Plan of Action for Children 2002-2010, a document prepared by the Ministry of Advancement of Women and Human Development, (PROMUDEH), in consultation with many public institutions and representatives of the civil society. This Plan contained the strategies, programs and actions that have to be executed in the present decade to obtain the above mentioned goals. The principal ones are the reduction of the infant and mother mortality, the reduction of the malnutrition, the access to basic services and to education, the reduction of the illiteracy and the special protection to children and adolescents, in particular, those living in difficult circumstances.

If I may make a personal observation, my own experience as a child and a young man, who enjoyed--in the fullest sense of the term--the benefits of an education, fully convinces me of the need to concern myself intensively and systematically with children and adolescents who have been scarred by poverty and social exclusion. I therefore pledge to do my very best to achieve these aims.

Finally, I reaffirm before you all that we shall fully uphold the agreements we have signed, whose spirit dovetails perfectly with the philosophy of my government.

Thank you very much.