Chief Executive Officer, International Save the Children Alliance
Over the last decade considerable progress has been made in advancing the rights of many millions of children around the world. These advances mean that many more children than ever before do not have to go to bed hungry, do not need to miss school in order to help make ends meet at home, and do not need to suffer ill health and disease.
So, it is right at this time, at the fast UN Special Session ever devoted to children, to highlight that progress for children is not only a possibility, it is a reality. A reality that must be built on and strengthened given the huge challenges that remain. For despite the improvements made the balance sheet remains unjustly tilted against children.
. Poverty is endemic with poverty taking a child's life every three seconds. The opportunities to escape the clutches of poverty remain too few with inequality acting as the main barrier.
. Conflict in many countries blights the lives of millions of children whose lives are wrecked as a result of adult's inability to resolve differences peacefully.
. The HIV/AIDS pandemic is significantly increasing the rate of under five mortality and devastating whole families and communities. Its impact threatens the sustainability and effectiveness of health and education systems in large areas of the world.
. There remains a crippling under investment in many of the basic services that are so essential to children. Some of this under investment can be accounted for because of the heavy debt burdens faced by some poorer countries, inadequate levels of
overseas development aid, and economic policies foisted upon poor countries by the international financial institutions that deprioritise social expenditures.
. Many millions of children continue to work in appalling conditions, denied access to education and exploited.
. The last decade has also witnessed a significant rise in the extent of sexual abuse and exploitation of children.
. Many millions of children everyday are hit, beaten, punched and kicked by adults in clear breach of their rights.
This week has been an opportunity for all of us to look critically at what has been achieved for children and the formidable challenges that remain.
We all know that much more needs to be done to tilt the balance sheet in favour of children. We all know that each and everyone one of us has a personal obligation to work for the realisation of children's rights everywhere. We all know that too many governments, international and national institutions, corporations and NGOs have not done enough to promote the best interests of children.
But what are the key priorities for global action to create a world fit for children?
For civil society groups, the principles and standards of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child must be upheld and applied rigorously. The Convention must act as the cornerstone for all follow up action from the Special Session at all levels. It is essential that all future policies and strategies are based on the recognition of children as holders of rights, as participants and social actors - as part of the solution to the challenges that they face, not part of the problem.
What can we do to accelerate the fulfilment of children's rights in the world in the coming decade?
Fast, the international community must galvanise the necessary political will to move beyond fine words and rhetoric and towards a determined and realistic programme of action for children. The 21 goals of the outcome document are important practical steps towards realising children's rights in key areas of children's lives. They, in turn, should be seen as stepping stones towards achieving the child centred Millennium Development Goals. However, neither of these sets of goals will be achievable unless the global community supports them with conviction, sustained political will and the necessary resources.
Second, the protection and enjoyment of children's rights must be properly
integrated into trade negotiations and other economic policy making that
impact on children's lives. We need to recognise that all economic policies
- however distant they seem from children - have an impact on them, whether
for good or ill.
Third, poorer countries must be guaranteed the additional resources to realise children's rights, for example, through faster and deeper debt relief and high quality development assistance. Such resources should be particularly focused on those countries that are prepared to use them to promote and fulfil children's rights. Recent offers of significant increases in ODA are welcome but do not come close to the estimated $70 billion required to reach the goals in health and education alone. This should happen alongside greater efforts to make aid as effective and as targeted as possible.
Fourth, long term investments in basic services must be prioritised to provide universal, quality health and education systems which give every child the possibility to reach their full potential. Protecting children's rights should be a front-line concern during emergencies.
Fifth, involving and listening to children needs to become institutionalised
in public policy making and programme delivery. Children and young people
must become a central resource in decision making on issues which impact
on their lives. The preparatory process for the Special Session has shown
what can be achieved with commitment and good will. Save the Children along
with other NGOs have been proud to play a leading role in supporting children
and young people's involvement in the Special Session process and will
continue to support children's active participation in the development,
implementation and monitoring of the National
Programmes of Action in the coming years.
Sixth, effective national institutions and mechanisms, such as a Minister for Children and youth, or a Commissioner or Ombudsperson for Children, need to be established to ensure that the concerns of children are placed high on the national agenda, to influence wider government policy through the lens of child rights, and to act as a focal point for children's participation in democratic processes.
And finally, the Committee on the Rights of the Child should be strengthened to enable it to perform its role even more effectively. We urge States Parties to rapidly authorise the expansion of the Committee and to provide it with the resources commensurate with the significance of the task with which it has been charged.
To conclude. The best route for dramatically transfonning the situation faced by children is through the consistent application of children's rights norms and standards for all children, at all times in all places. To do this, the plans of action for children to be developed at a national level after the Special Session will need to become practical implementation strategies for the Convention during the next decade. They will also provide a tool by which children themselves can play an active part in building more child friendly societies.
We know what needs to be achieved in the coming decade. The negotiation of the Outcome document is an important step forward. But its success can only really be measured through its implementation over the next decade. Civil society groups will seek wherever possible to work with governments and other to involve children in decisions that affect their lives and to develop different and more imaginative approaches to work for a better world for children and for all society. Furthermore, we will ensure that Government's are held accountable for implementing the outcomes from the Special Session and that the promises made to children in the last three days, and in the run up to the Special Session, are fully honoured.
The next steps the world takes will define the future of our children
and their children's children. They will look back 10, 20, or 50 years
from now to evaluate our commitment made at this Special Session. Let's
make sure they can thank us for doing our part in creating a world fit