Statement

by

H.E. Mr. Nambar Enkhbayar,
Prime Minister of Mongolia,
Co-Chair of Round Table I

at

the plenary meeting of the Special Session of United Nations General Assembly on Children

10 May, 2002    New York



 Mr. President, Esteemed Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me a great pleasure and honor to report to this august Assembly on the results of roundtable I on theme "Renewal of commitment and future actions for children in the neat decade".

But before doing so I would like to express our deep condolences over the loss of human lives, including many children, yesterday in Caspiisk of the Russian Federation, as a result of a terrorist attack perpetrated on the day when the Russian people, together with all freedom loving peoples, were celebrating the victory in World War II over the forces of evil and fascism, that took the lives of tens of millions of people throughout the world. I would like to ask the Russian delegation to relay our feelings of deep condolences to the Government and people of the Russian Federation and the families of the victims.
 

Mr. President,

It was a great privilege for me and President Ion Illiescu of Romania to cochair roundtable I. The attendance and participation were impressive. Over 50 heads of State, Government and other dignitaries that are vested with broad powers to make a difference have taken an active part in the discussions, which lasted over 4 hours and exceeded its time-limit by over an hour. It is virtually impossible to report on the rich and thought-provoking debate within 3 minutes. Therefore, with your permission, I will have to exceed the time limit to usefully convey the message that came out of the roundtable.
 

Mr. President,

 The meeting started with statements made by Ms. Caroline Barebwoha (15) of Uganda and 1VTr. Te Kerei Moka (17) of New Zeland, who highlighted the feelings and views of many children of the world on some pressing issues. Thus they both stressed the importance of education, especially for girls and children from - indigenous groups.

Many participants spoke of progress in their own countries in ensuring all children's right to education. Of course, some countries have made greater progress than others, and progress has been less than satisfactory in some respects, as the Secretary-General made clear in his report, "We, the Children".

Education is a basic human right and one of the keys to eradicating poverty. Speakers described laws that make primary education free and compulsory, and more importantly, about how critical it is to ensure that this education be of high quality, take place in a safe and well-equipped environment and that teachers be well-trained. It was widely recognized that quality pre-school education and early childhood development are fundamental to children's longer-term development, followed by quality primary and secondary education.

The lack of financial resources continues to hinder the development of quality education, as does a lack of equipment and trained personnel in many countries. Many participants spoke of the importance of inter-regional and international cooperation to maximize limited resources and share experiences. In this regard it was underlined that the United Nations Literacy Decade, to be launched in 2003, should provide an excellent opportunity to mobilizing additional resources for the purposes of eradicating illiteracy and development of quality education, as envisaged in the Millennium Development Goals.

Technology in education has emerged as a new priority, especially computer literacy and access to the internet. These will only grow in importance in the next decade, but, as was pointed out several times, in many countries, desks, infrastructure and even electricity are still lacking in schools.

Another important theme was children's health and survival. Many delegates spoke of impressive achievements since 1990 in decreasing child and maternal mortality through immunization, primary health care and nutrition. However, the Director General of the WHO, Dr. Brundtland, said that while there has been progress since 1990, it has not been enough. The world is still not reaching the children most in need of simple, inexpensive, life-saving treatments like immunization, oral rehydration therapy, safe deliveries and basic hygiene practices.

Several participants also spoke about the importance of adequate food and nutrition for children's healthy development. The Executive Director of the World Food Programme, Mr. James Morris, stressed that "a hungry child has no chance to learn, no chance to grow". In some countries, however, children face other
challenges to their health, including diabetes, heart diseases and obesity. Other problems facing children today include violence in schools and drug, alcohol and tobacco abuse.

Many delegations stressed the importance of the family to children's development and well-being, including the need for interactions between young people and their elders, and for children to be raised in their own cultures, with respect for their traditions and the natural environment. Moka, the young Maori, spoke of the daily battles of most indigenous people to maintain their language and traditions. "To lose one's culture is to lose one's soul", he said, "a part of you dies." It was said that even in wealthy countries, there must be better distribution of resources to ensure that minorities do not lose their right to education.

The threat of HIV/AIDS was mentioned again and again, with speakers citing continuing efforts to educate and mobilize young people against this disease through such initiative as life-skills training, and to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Other important efforts involve care for children orphaned or made vulnerable by AIDS.

Another major threat to children is continued armed conflict. The participants were reminded of the hundreds of thousands of children who have never known peace, been to school or received any health care, because of war and conflict. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr. Rudd Lubbers, spoke about the special challenges faced by refugee children, including detention, sexual abuse and exploitation of refugee women and children. He also cited the need for education for refugee children.

Mrs. Mary Robinson, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, underlined the importance of children's real participation, reminding participants of the message from the Children's Forum that they want "a world fit for us". Many speakers described children's opinion polls, elections, parliaments and other fora, where children's voices can be heard. One important forum is the network of ombudspersons, or child defenders, of which there are 17 in Europe.

Another important issue was the question of monitoring and assessing progress in implementing the goals of the Special Session. One important suggestion was to encourage regional peer reviews involving national leaders, who would meet periodically to assess progress made in fulfilling their commitments. Other participants stressed the need for region-specific data to allow for more accurate reporting, and of regional agendas concentrating on areas of specific interest.

The question of resources was raised many times, as was the importance of poverty eradication. Vast resources will be needed to achieve the targets of the Special Session, although resources are scarce and there is vast competition for funds. Some participants urged donors to increase resource allocations for development, including through debt cancellation. One valuable suggestion was to look again at the possibility of reducing military expenditures and using the dividends for children's health and education. As 15-year-old Caroline said, "there is a need to invest in us, the children ... we are the world's own destiny".

In conclusion, Mr. President, I would like to on behalf of the co-chairs thank - the Substantive Secretariat for its assistance in making roundtable-I useful and highly productive.
 

Thank you, Mr. President.