Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas,
Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis,

at the United Nations Special Session on Children
New York, United States
May 8, 2002

Mr. President, it is my distinct honor to congratulate you on behalf of the delegation of St Kitts and Nevis, on your election to preside over the Special Session of the General Assembly on Children.

I would also like to congratulate Her Excellency Ambassador Patricia Durant, the distinguished Permanent Representative of Jamaica, and Chairperson of the Special Session on Children, for her tireless and dedicated effort on behalf of the children of the world.

Mr. President, we are fully cognizant that in the past decade, the United Nations joined leaders in a global effort to protect the rights of all children.  My Government reaffirms its commitment to prioritise human development, and more specifically to create a safe and enabling environment for the well being of our children.  We are totally committed to the full implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Plan of Action of the World Summit for Children and the Lima Accord.

My government believes that the formative years of a child are of critical importance to sustained national development, giving credence to the motto, "An Early and Right Start for Children". Accordingly, my government continues to source the requisite funds for building additional daycare centers in every community, throughout the Federation for children up to the age of five.  Despite our budgetary constraints we are committed to ensure the overall development of our children.

Mr. President, St. Kitts and Nevis is strategically positioned in the Caribbean region as far as early childhood education and care are concerned. For over thirty years, we have been in the forefront in the provision of universal access to secondary education.  This policy, which allows for compulsory education between the ages of 5 - 16 years, has laid a solid foundation for our success in securing a 98% literacy rate. Our efforts Mr. President, also address the special needs of children with disabilities, which will be reflected within the framework of a new Education Act.

Mr. President, my government strongly believes that affordability and access should not be a deterrent to optimal health. Health care facilities are positioned in every community thus enabling the provision of free medical and dental care to children in the Federation. Our infant mortality rate has reduced significantly, and there is 100% coverage for communicable diseases. Ninety-six percent of our population has access to basic sanitation and 100% access to clean drinking water.

Mr. President, my government and I recognize that the Convention on the Rights of the Child has widespread implications for all sectors of society. We are moving to ensure that all groups become sufficiently aware of, and understand the rights enshrined in the Convention.

In addition, we recognize that our traditional structures need to be revisited and reformed, to address holistically the current and constantly changing issues pertaining to families and children.  Our Ministry of Social Development, Community and Gender Affairs has begun this process.  One of the definitive outcomes of the process will be the clear delineation of the roles of the Ministry, Police, Health and Education agencies in the appropriate management and prevention of cases of child abuse.

With regard to Law Reform, our legal framework and existing policy on children and the family will be CRC compliant by the year 2003. Our commitment is also an integral part of the UNICEF-supported OECS Supreme Court Family Law, Judicial and Legislative Reform Project.

Mr. President, I am happy to declare that in 1995 the Government of St Kitts and Nevis signed and ratified the Inter-American Convention for the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women and five years thereafter, in January of 2002, the Domestic Violence Act was passed.  Professional counseling services are provided for victims of gender based violence and perpetrators of domestic violence.  In addition, extensive training pertaining to sexual offences, child abuse and domestic violence is provided for police officers, guidance counselors, public health nurses and child care workers.  My government has also taken a progressive step of guaranteeing adolescent mothers the opportunity to continue their education, thus addressing the major concern of society's most vulnerable, our women and children.

Mr. President, as we journey into the new Millennium, my government has identified key priority areas for action over the next decade:

Mr. President, meeting these challenges has placed great strain on our limited resources.  Nonetheless, we have taken a proactive stance to ensure that, "These Are The Best Times To Be A Child". Mr. President, it is our intention to make it the best time for the children of our nation and the world.

We therefore challenge the international community to support the global initiative that seeks to create, "A world Fit for Children".