H.E. Hasan Gemici
Minister of State of the Republic of Turkey

on the occasion of the Special Session of the General Assembly on Children

New York,
9 May 2002

Mr. President,
Distinguished Heads of State and Government, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Children,

I would like to express my pleasure in attending the Special Session on children, which I believe would enable us to make this world a better place for children.
In spite of the persistent efforts of the UN, UNICEF and member states to improve the situation of children in the world, we cannot really say,that today's world is one that is best fit for children.

This special session therefore is an important opportunity for us to reaffirm our determination to create "A World Fit For Children" and to renew our pledge to all the children in the world by furthering our efforts.

In this framework, the report of the Secretary General "We the Children", which evaluates the work done in the last ten years for the improvement of the situation of children, no doubt, will serve us as a valuable guidance for all our future action.

In line with the objectives of the 1990 World Summit for Children, important steps have been taken in Turkey in the last decade to implement the principles and provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. These steps include not only compliance with the general principles such as nondiscrimination and best interests of children but also more concrete action towards their realization.

On this occasion, I would like to bring to your attention some of the achievements realized in Turkey in this field:

. Legislative work for harmonization of the current Turkish laws with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other relevant conventions are in process. Amendments on the Civil Code have been completed. There are also some amendments included in the Draft Laws for the Penal Code and Code of Criminal Procedures in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
. The ILO Conventions No: 138 and 182 concerning child labour have been ratified. Turkey is a party to all the ILO conventions including these two, which are directly related to children. As a result of that child labour in Turkey has been further decreased by 4 %.
. Cooperation programs with UNICEF are being successfully carried out since 1988. Likewise, joint programs carried out with ILO/IPEC since 1992 have equally been successful.
. Turkey has signed the two optional protocols of the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and on the involvement of children in armed conflict. The ratification processes of these protocols are expected to be completed soon.
. European Convention on the Exercise of dhildren's Rights has also been signed and ratified.
. Committees at various levels for monitoring and evaluating the exercise of the rights of the child have been established and started to operate to provide planning and to ensure coordination between the relevant Government sectors.
. As regards to health, a decrease of up to 50% was achieved in the post-natal and infant mortality rates. Presently, there are at least 116 Infant Friendly Hospitals in Turkey. As a result of the polio eradication campaign, no cases of polio are seen since 1998. The year 2002 was declared as "The Year of Prevention of Maternal and Infant Mortality". Educational programs for family planning as well as for combating HIV/AIDS have been devised and implemented.
. The period of compulsory education has been increased from 5 years to 8 years. In line with the decisions reached at the World Summit for Children, a National Action Plan aimed at reaching the targets set for the year 2000 was prepared in 1993 with the participation of all relevant sectors. Subsequently the said-plan was revised in 1996. Programs to increase the literacy rate of girls and women are continuing. A project has been developed to support early childhood education for children living in difficult conditions. Intensive efforts are undertaken to fight poverty within this project.
. A campaign for the promotion of the rights of the child was launched with the cooperation of all relevant sectors with a view to promoting the Convention on the Rights of the Child and increasing public sensitivity on the matter,
. In connection with the recent earthquakes experienced in Turkey, intensive work is carried out to eliminate the effects of the earthquake on children.
. The "First National Children's Forum" was organized with the participation of child delegates from 81 provinces in Turkey. They expressed their problems and proposed solutions which were then submitted to the President, as an example of the exercise of the "Right to Participation of Children", which is one of the four main principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
. On 20 November 2001, "Second National Children's Forum" was organized, where the principles of the "Say Yes For Children" campaign were discussed
. An "Assembly of Children" was convened on 21 April 2002 at the General Assembly Hall of the Turkish Parliament within the framework of the 23 April Children's Day celebrations. Child parliamentarians from each province of Turkey discussed the ten fundamental principles of the "Say Yes For Children" campaign and voiced their views on issues concerning children.
We are aiming to provide quality education and health services to all of our children. Expanding protective services to children, decreasing maternal and infant mortality rates, educating and encouraging families to enable their children to exercise their rights, improving institutional care for children in need, encouraging alternative care services, protecting handicapped children and providing them educational services, gradually eliminating child labor, protecting children from negligence, abuse and violence, increasing educational efforts to prevent HIV/AIDS, ensuring reintegration with the society of children who fell in discord with the laws and establishing child-friendly centers and systems are among our key, priorities.

The founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, has dedicated 23`d of April, date of the establishment of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey in 1920, to children. Since then, every year, April 23 is celebrated as Children's Day in Turkey. Thus for the first time in the world a national day has been dedicated to children. One of the objectives of the Children's Day is to draw the attention of the public to the problems of the children in difficult conditions. These celebrations also provide the opportunity for better understanding the need to give priority to children, as well as evaluating the work done for the children in this field.

Furthermore, for the last 25 years, Turkey has been celebrating 23 April Children's Day as an "International Children's Festival". Many countries send children groups to Turkey to participate in the festivities. During their stay in Turkey the Turkish families host these children. They interact and become friends with the Turkish children. This way, we believe the foundations of a more peaceful and tolerant world are being laid.

On this occasion, allow me to voice one long-standing wish of the Turkish children. In order to share the honour and pride of this wonderful and meaningful day with the children of the world, they wish to see the 23 April to be adopted as the International Children's Day. Hence these festivities could from now on be celebrated in a different country each year. We call upon the UN member states to support their wish which would enable the children of the world to meet on a special day every year to make this world a better place.

I would also like to emphasize that the first regional launch of the "Say Yes For Children" campaign, globally initiated on 26 April 2001, has been made on 23 April 2001 in Turkey within the 23 April Children's Day celebrations. Mrs. Nane ANNAN, who visited Turkey to take part in those celebrations, has extended her valuable support to the campaign. As you all know, "Say Yes for Children" campaign is aimed at pledging global support for the ten critical actions needed to improve the lives of children and adolescents all over the world. We believe that this campaign, which produced a social mobilization in Turkey, has played a very important role in raising awareness for the problems of children. Thanks to the joint efforts of the Prime Ministry and its related organizations, Ministries of Health, Labor, National Education, Justice, Foreign Affairs, Interior and National Defense, Social Services and Children's Protection Agency, Children's Rights Coalition and other NGOs, universities and local administrations, more than 16 million signatures have been collected in Turkey for this campaign. We believe that these signatures testify our determination for preparing a better world for our children.

Finally, I would like express once again our gratitude to everyone who has taken part and contributed in the organization of this Special Session.

Thank you.