TO THE TWENTY-SEVENTH SPECIAL SESSION OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY ON CHILDREN
NEW YORK 9 May, 2002
Check against delivery
Saint Lucia joins the rest of the members of this august body in applauding this decision to give especial attention, in these turbulent times, to the children of the world, the future of humanity. It was the English poet, William Wordsworth, who penned the enigmatic line "The Child is father to the man" expressing his conviction that it is the world in which we invite our children to live in that is responsible for the under-realization of their potential. This calling to account of world leaders which this special Assembly represents is therefore not only most timely, but absolutely necessary for the sustainability and viability of our world.
It could be that we are so pre-occupied with securing or increasing our market share in the international economic marketplace in the now, that we lose sight of the players, today's children, who in the future would be expected to manage whatever gains we will have made. Or it could be that we believe that we know what is best for them, having gone down that road before. Thus, unless we are forced into dealing with a crisis, we provide so few opportunities for them to speak for themselves, and so guide the policy decisions taken on their behalf.
This is why Saint Lucia applauds once again the initiators of the Global Movement for Children. It is our fervent hope that this initiative will serve as the main vehicle which will drive us as policy makers and social planners to place children's issues and concerns at the heart of our nation's development agenda.
In preparation for this international assembly, Saint Lucia convened a Children's Forum which sought to canvass the feelings, ideas, worries, hopes and dreams which they wanted conveyed to the members of this international community. Time does not permit me to present them all, but their message was clear. The issue that was raised most consistently by all age groups participating was their perception that they were not sufficiently loved or adequately cared for by the adults in society. Indeed their cry or their plea is borne out by the chilling statistics which show that the incidence of physical and sexual abuse, neglect and abandonment of children in Saint Lucia has quadrupled during the course of the last five years. This has been attributed to the migration of mothers, the contraction of the support of the extended family, early adolescent pregnancy and unemployment. But their comments were a telling indictment of the family and social structure which, to their mind, fail to discharge their moral, social and civic responsibility towards them.
High on their list of concerns was also the issue of HIV/AIDS. Indeed there is cause for concern, as 14% of the cases recorded in St. Lucia are children under the age of 20; 8% are pediatric cases in the 1 - 5 age group, while 92% of adolescent cases are girls between the ages of 15 and 19. Our children therefore called for programmatic interventions to reduce the spread of the disease and for the removal of discrimination against infected persons.
The children of St. Lucia have also called for the creation of spaces of their own: recreational centers, a children's hospital, foster homes, counseling centers, children's resource centers; and with characteristic generosity, they have also made a plea for help for their parents in the area of parenting. Indeed their concerns are consistent with the goal of this Assembly: the creation of a world in which they can enjoy their childhood - a time of play and learning, in which they are loved, respected and cherished, and in which they can develop in health, peace and dignity.
Saint Lucia therefore looks to the continued support of the international community in maintaining, even in these difficult times, the enabling environment in which it can access the financial resources and the technical assistance needed to answer the legitimate call of its children for a more secure and less stressful environment. With so much at stake, immediate returns on that type of investment should not be the deciding factor.
Your Excellencies, Honorable Ministers,
Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you.