Ambassador Thomas Hammarberg
Head of Delegation

and Maja Frankel, Youth delegate

at the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Children

May 10, 2002

Mr President,

We have admired your able and wise chairing of this special session.

We are about to conclude. We know now that agreements have been reached, finally, between our negotiators on the remaining controversial points in the draft Outcome Document. Therefore, we will this afternoon be able to adopt a Declaration and Plan of Action - and that in the spirit of a broad consensus.

With this, we have pledged new efforts to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of the child. This pledge to our children should now be turned into reality. No one is satisfied with empty promises, certainly not the young generation - actions are required.

The implementation of the rights of the child is more than a question of charity; it is a political challenge -- requiring a political vision, political will and conscious political decisions. The Convention on the Rights of the Child tells us to give the best interests of the child a primary consideration in all decisions we take affecting children. This, in turn, requires a serious child impact analysis as a normal aspect of political and administrative decision-making.

- We should review our legislation in order to make it consistent with the principles of the rights of the child - and the Convention as a whole. One example is to ban corporal punishment and other abuse of children.

- We should establish a system of gathering data and statistics, relevant for the situation of children. Such data should be disaggregated on the basis of gender, age, disability, family status and other essential criterions. Such facts should be analysed as a basis for further reforms.

- We should support a systematic monitoring of the situation of children, for instance through the establishment of an independent Ombudsman, who could speak for the interest of the child and propose child-friendly reforms.

- We should spread awareness about the situation of all children and their rights. Professionals working directly with children should be given education and advice on the meaning of child rights. The Convention should be part of the school curricula and the daily life in school organised in the spirit of the Convention. That is, we need to democratise our schools.

The Convention also tells us to use the maximum of our available resources to secure children's wellbeing. The interests of the child should weigh heavy in our national budget processes.

More affluent countries have an obligation to assist in burden-sharing - when it comes to children our duties do not stop at national frontiers. Development co-operation programmes should now be directed towards assisting in the implementation of the rights spelled out in our action plan.

We pledge to continue to allocate more than 0.7 per cent of our GNP to development cooperation and to focus our contributions even further to the needs of children. We are prepared to share experiences - both progress and difficulties - with all our partners.

All these political actions should be undertaken in dialogue with the young generation. A major challenge is to open the adult society to the young ones. On local and national level we should seek avenues to a meaningful, respectful dialogue. It should be obvious that we involve children in all matters concerning them; we should respect their views in accordance with their age and maturity, as the Conventions says.

In that spirit we have asked a young member of our delegation, Maja Frankel, to conclude this presentation with her reflections on child participation:

Youth Delegate Maja Frankel:

The Children's Summit in 1990 decided to create a better world for children. Why does it not happen? The world today has the resources to make all children survive and grow up!

My answer is that the political will to involve young people in decisions is still missing. Participation - you have used and abused that word many times these days. Do you really know that it means?

Twelve years ago you forgot to ask the expert themselves - the young people! However, the Convention granted us rights and for this Summit there was some progress made. More children were included in preparations and government delegations.

Unfortunately, we forgot to define meaningful participation, before we started to practice it! It is not participation when young people are present just as decoration, to smile gratefully or just to sing and dance. Neither is it when we have less good meeting rooms or translation than adult delegates do. We often need more assistance, but can do without luxury.

Participation becomes meaningful when we are here at the same terms as everyone else - before, during and after the decisions are made. And we do not expect that you listen, smile and say that you agree with us, if you don't!

Respect is when you take our views seriously. Tell what you disagree about and be prepared to make compromises with us! We are not stupid. We do understand that all cannot be achieved at once.

With this kind of meaningful participation, young people can start being seen as a big resource instead of a burden or a problem.
It is common to say that we represent the future. That is not the best reason to involve us. Instead, we are living in the present and it is to a that many of us suffer too much.

We are the experts on realities of young people today, not on how it was twenty or forty years ago. You have all been young, but the world is fast changing. To understand how the present forms the future, you have to listen and respect us, as we also respect experts in many other fields.

If you, when adopting the Convention on the Rights of the Child, had realised that it meant dealing with us seriously, I am not sure that you would have agreed on it. Maybe it was better that we were not present to remind you how challenging we can be.

The more opinions heard, the harder it is to reach agreement. But chances are that important aspects are not forgotten. To understand how children live today is how we can realise the Convention.

That is what we want to do, isn't it?

Thank you, Mr President